What can you make out of a pile of broken electronics? How can you jury-rig something to retrieve an object from the water without getting your feet wet? What can you make to recover a backpack that has fallen into a canyon?
Seeking the answers to these and many other questions is the point of Camp Invention, being held this week at Lincoln Elementary. During the camp, first- through sixth-grade students are challenged to work in teams to create an innovative solution to a problem given them.
“There is a little bit of everything,” said instructor Julie Timmins. “Kids are going around the world. They are learning different things about different countries. They are building things. They are tearing things apart. They are designing new products.”
And just like the fictional television inventor ‘MacGyver,’ the students only have what they can find lying around and what is in their heads to create their solutions to the problems.
Camp Invention is a science camp trademarked by the United States Patent Office. This is the third year that the camp has been offered in the Washington School District. The camp is designed to give students experience using science, design and engineering. The American Association of University Women and the Kiwanis AMers provided some scholarships for the camp this year.
To the students working on projects at Lincoln this morning, they were having too much fun to realize they were learning science.
This year, 72 campers are signed up for Camp Invention. Instructor Nancy Clawson said many are returning campers who attended last year. There are also, in addition to the district teachers, 16 high school students who volunteered to work for the camp to earn silver cord hours.
“The camp is designed to introduce kids to problem solving, thinking skills and creativity that they are going to need in the future for them to be in the work force of tomorrow,” Clawson said. “The job markets are changing quickly, but the problem solving skills are going to be needed no matter what they do in life.”
In the hallway outside the classrooms being used for the camp, a pile of things ranging from cardboard to twine to old electronic equipment sat waiting to be recycled into something different.
“We are trying to get a bottle out of the ocean without going in the ocean,” student Brennon Westphal, son of Melissa and Jason Westphal.
The group of four students worked together to create a paper cup on an extended pole. Worried that the weight of the water would cause the cup to tear off, they asked for help cutting holes in the bottom to release the water.
“We learned about sonar and how oceanographers use sonar to find things in the ocean,” instructor Janet Conrad said. “Now they are pretending they are on land and have to get a message in the ocean.”
In most of the problems, there is more than one right answer. The different groups worked together to come up with a workable solution to the problem.