Whether they were tearing apart household electronics, building something from scratch or inventing a new use for duct tape, the 95 children at Camp Invention in Thornton learned to work as a team and to rely on their problem-solving and …
Whether they were tearing apart household electronics, building something from scratch or inventing a new use for duct tape, the 95 children at Camp Invention in Thornton learned to work as a team and to rely on their problem-solving and creative-thinking skills.
Camp Invention is a nationally recognized summer program based on an engineering camp that's open to children from kindergarten to sixth grade.
Thornton's STEM Launch, a science and technology-focused K-8 program run through the Adams 12 Five Star School District, was one of numerous North Denver Schools to host the camp June 5-9.
A donation from the Ball Foundation and a grant through the school district allowed the STEM Launch program to offer the camp to kids for free.
The camp is part of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and the camp curriculum is inspired by great inventors throughout the world.
Camp Invention has five modules: Operation Keep Out, Have a Blast, Mission Space Makers, Duct Tape Billionaire and Camp Invention Games. Each offers a different kind of challenge aimed at creative thinking and problem-solving.
“Each module has an instructor; the instructor goes through different things with them every day,” said Melissa Sayre, director of the STEM Launch camp. “They have pictures that they talk about, they watch videos and the instructors give them challenges. They explain each day what the kids are going to be doing.”
Campers, too, are split into five groups based upon age, and each group spends 45 minutes per day in each module.
“All the groups go through each module,” Sayre added. “The only difference is that it's changed for each grade level so that they can still access the information.”
Taking apart and putting together
Operation Keep Out is a module where kids learn to take apart unwanted electronics they brought from home. As a team, they use the parts to build a working alarm clock.
“It's a progressive thing,” said Sayre. “Monday is when they started working and, hopefully, by Friday we'll have some working alarm clocks.”
It's the favorite activity for fourth-grader Brendan. (Camp Invention organizers did not want campers' last names used.)
“My favorite part is taking apart the items,” Brendan said. “I'm not finished taking apart my machine. I brought a music player from home. It's been fun, but it's really hard.”
Having a blast
In Have a Blast, kids not only learn about rocket science, gravity and velocity, but they also use lots of recyclable items to build their projects.
“One day they made slingshots out of all recyclable materials and tested which could go the furthest,” Sayre said.
Nicoleta Bleskan, instructor for the module, said the projects get more complex.
“Tomorrow they will assemble a rocket gun,” Bleskin said. “After they've assembled the machine, they will have a battle blast with bubbles.”
Heading into space
In the Mission Space Makers module, kids discover and make their own planets, as well as, the plants and animals that might inhabit their planet.
“I'm really looking forward to the next station because we are going to be able to check on our crystals trees and monsters,” said Logan, who begins fourth grade this fall.
All about duct tape
The Duct Tape Billionaire module encourages kids to design duct tape products and figure out what company might manufacture their product.
Zaden, who will be a fifth-grader in the fall, said it's a favorite.
“I like just making stuff and letting ideas out,” Zaden said. “In this class, we always use duct tape.”
Another soon to be fifth-grader, Jeiel, was working to design a duct tape hat.
“My hat has a loop right here so you can put your pencil or pen through,” Jeiel said. “People lose their pen after they write something down. I'm going to add a little pocket so you can put your phone in and listen to music.”
Playing games — and inventing
The last module is called Camp Invention Games.
“They're still working together on teamwork and still working in teams doing something, but they're playing games,” Sayer said.
In one game, the kids soaked shirts with water, squished them into balls and froze them. Later, they worked together in teams to figure out how to open a frozen shirt and put it on one of their teammates.
Campers raved about the program. Kevin, who begins fourth grade this fall, said he likes all of it.
“My favorite part is all the stations because you get to do a lot of engineering, mathematics, science and there's a lot of things you can learn here because it's STEM Launch,” Kevin said. “There are great teachers here, and they do a lot with you. One of the things I've learned is that magnets can eject from each other. They don't always go together.”
For Sayer, it's all about fun — and learning.
“The awesome part is when I walk into a classroom and ask kids what they're working on," she said, "and just hearing them being able to explain it.”