Students create and innovate at Camp Invention

Campers use pieces of non-working machines and devices to make spy gadget alarm boxes at Camp Invention on Aug. 4.

Campers Kian Edibam and Brian Dobson watch as instructor Jason Greasley lifts a bubble-catcher out of soapy water at Camp Invention.

A camper rummages through equipment parts.

Campers making alarms out of old pieces of equipment.

Alarms created by campers using parts of old equipment.

Campers create bubble-catchers at Camp Invention.

An instructor helps a camper make a bubble-catcher.

Planets designed and created by campers as part of the Mission Space Makers module.

A planet created by a camper as part of the Mission Space Makers module.

A planet created by a camper as part of the Mission Space Makers module.

A Camp Invention instructor assists campers.

Equipment taken apart by campers to build things like alarms.

Kendra Baker photos

More than 100 rising first- through sixth-graders engaged in innovative and creative projects at Wilton’s Camp Invention, July 31 through Aug. 4.

The week-long day camp is designed to not only foster innovation and creativity in students, but also build self-esteem, teamwork, persistence and goal-setting skills.

Camp Invention Director Bryan Ennis said Camp Invention in Wilton, held at Wilton High School, has increased in size over the last three years.

“We went from 80 kids to 90 kids to 120 kids this year,” he said.

Including leadership interns and counselors-in-training, Ennis said, he had 150 kids under the age of 18 in this year’s program, as well as seven adults — five instructors, one assistant director and himself.

Leadership interns included rising 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders, said Ennis, and the camp instructors were Wilton public school employees — from first and second grade teachers to library media specialists and physical education teachers.

The number of female campers has also increased, said Ennis — from roughly 25% in 2015 to almost 40% this year.

Ennis said this is something he’s “very excited about,” considering research and studies that have shown an underrepresentation of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

Camp Invention features a new theme each year. This year’s theme, “Launch,” focused on outer space and included five modules: Mission Space Makers, Have a Blast, Operation Keep Out, Duct Tape Billionaire, and Camp Invention Games.

Ennis said Camp Invention is “never boring” because “everything changes” each year — from the campers to the projects.

Mission Space Makers

Through Mission Space Makers, campers got to experience the power of rocket science by building and launching rubber band rockets, explore National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees and NASA engineers, and work together to not only grow plants, but their interest in science and space as well.

Campers made their own exoplanets and designed inventions that transformed their planet’s atmosphere, terrain and ecosystem.

Have a Blast

Through Have a Blast, campers applied engineering principles to create cardboard castles and design pulley systems to raise castle flags, and build “snowball” throwers, air cannons and water rockets made from plastic bottles. On the last day of camp, they built “machines” to harness bubbles.

Operation Keep Out

During the Operation Keep Out module, campers built their own spy gadget alarm boxes.

Campers spent a couple days writing and sketching design ideas before taking apart non-working machines and devices — from keyboards and computers to coffee-makers and handheld vacuums —  to investigate their inner operations, explore mechanical and electrical machine parts, and build their alarms.

Ennis said campers used 126 different tools “that they have never used before” to create the alarms.

Duct Tape Billionaire

For Duct Tape Billionaire, campers designed and built their own duct tape creations, explored patents, talked about copyright, and learned how businesses are launched.

The module was designed to not only engage students in creative thinking, but also have them explore invention from a real-world point-of-view and practice skills entrepreneurs use to launch new products.

“Early on, they built wallets and purses out of duct tape,” said Ennis.

Later on, he said, campers were given names of products and they had to work in groups to come up with names, slogans and logos.

A time-traveling Jeep called the Time Travel 3000 and teddy bear-shaped television called the TV Teddy were just some of the things campers came up with.

Games

The fifth module took place in the high school’s Zeoli Field House, where campers played different games.

For one of the games, campers split into four groups and were given eight supplies. Each group had to select a “runner” who would approach the other groups and try to trade supplies in an effort to collect “eight pieces of the same thing,” said Ennis.

For example, Ennis said, one group had to collect eight balls.

“They would run to groups and say, ‘Can I trade you this ball for your orange cup? Deal or no deal?’” he said, and the group would either agree to trade or say, “No deal.”

The runners had to do that until all eight pieces were collected for their groups.

Teamwork

What makes the camp “neat,” said Ennis, is that students learn to collaborate and work in groups.

Although campers were given the opportunity to be “creative by themselves,” said Ennis, most of Camp Invention is focused on teamwork.

“The big thing — and what parents really love — is that the kids get opportunities to work in groups, which can be tough for the younger kids, and even the older kids.”

More info is available at: campinvention.org.

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