Kids invent during camp

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 18, 2006

By Kari Lucin, staff writer

Most adults would have a tough time taking apart their toaster ovens, VCRs or telephones, much less creating something new out of the pieces, but kids are doing just that at Camp Invention this week.

At the hands-on science camp, kids explored and learned interesting things about physics, weather, patents, safety devices and what’s in a machine, said coordinator Deb Wenum.

&8220;It’s amazing the imagination that goes into it, too,&8221; Wenum said.

Community Education hosted Camp Invention at the Albert Lea High School for elementary students going into first through sixth grade. This was the first year it was offered in Albert Lea, though Rochester, Owatonna and other area towns have done it before.

Kids who signed up early paid $175 for the week, and kids who didn’t paid $200. The price included two snacks a day as well as the materials kids use during the week. The Albert Lea Lions and the Albert Lea Eagles both provided scholarship money to the tune of $195 apiece. Some materials were donated by Minnesota Corrugated Box and HyVee.

Camp Invention supplied everything else for the week.

Kids participated in five different modules during their week at camp.

In &8220;Spills and Chills&8221; they became engineers, trying to make skateboards safer and crash testing small cars with eggs inside. When the cars were pushed down an incline for testing, only one of the 44 eggs was fatally injured.

&8220;The great thing about it is that it’s all hands-on,&8221; Wenum said. &8220;It’s amazing the imagination that goes into it too.&8221;

Kids learned to survive the deadly storms of science-fiction Planet ZAK, where they crashed their spaceship, in &8220;Problem Solving on Planet ZAK.&8221; They reassembled their spacecraft, designed shelter and clothing to protect themselves against the elements, gathered food and re-launched their spaceships. The shelters were made mostly of tables, boxes and the plastic bags that kept out the raging storms &045; counselor Raissa Byer with a squirt-bottle.

Building rollercoasters was the theme of &8220;Imagination Point: Ride Physics.&8221; Kids created prototypes for roller coasters using foam tubing, cardboard tubes, milk jugs and recycled objects, testing their creations repeatedly using a marble

and plenty of persistence.

&8220;They’re brilliant,&8221; Wenum said.

Kids created their own games in &8220;AMAZing Games,&8221; changing the four main aspects of games &045; players, equipment, area and rules &045; to suit themselves.

The most popular module, however, was &8220;I Can Invent.&8221; Kids brought broken or old appliances like telephones, clocks, toasters or radios to camp, took them apart using common tools and then created something new from the parts. Along the way, they kept inventors’ logs, helping them keep track of the steps they’ve taken and what’s left to be done. Eventually they learned about obtaining patents and marketing their inventions.

&8220;I’m taking apart a VCR,&8221; said 8-year-old Riley Arthur, who hoped to make an alarm clock out of

the parts.

Hunter Tuveson and Garrett Fisher, both 10 and going into fifth grade in the fall, took apart toasters.

Fisher said they found &8220;a lot of bread crumbs. No springs in there, but I thought there would be.&8221;

Kids showed off their week’s work Friday afternoon in the Inventors’ Showcase in the high school commons.