They arrive with sacks filled with no longer used items that most likely would end up in the appliance graveyard – clocks, VCRs, music boxes and outdated phones.
They leave with knowledge of the inner workings of machines, the patent process, a respect for the environment and an urge to ignite their inventive flairs.
They are the attendees of Camp Invention held at Northpoint Elementary School in Blaine.
Forty students, ranging from incoming first-graders to incoming sixth-graders, attended the hands-on day camp July 8-12 with a focus on fostering imaginative play.
The crux of the program is steeped in science, technology, engineering and math, with much fun added into the mix. Campers learn of wedges, pulleys, levers and fulcrums.
“I think it’s really neat to see how students can take found objects and incorporate them into their new inventions,” said Ben Haensel, director of Camp Invention Geo-Quest Program at Northpoint.
Upcycling was on the campers’ minds last week as they busily disassembled their machines. Lest you’re not familiar with the word, upcycling, an inventive word in itself that originated from the camp, means the taking apart of items and building new inventions from the old.
The young campers worked together in teams. Using adult tools, they donned plastic safety glasses. They dismantled such upcyclables as mother boards, clocks and music boxes.
Camper Violet Hamacher, 7, was busy taking apart a flashlight. “I like everything about it,” she said of Camp Invention.
The goal for the day was to make a duck-chucking device, aka as a duck launcher and to catapult a toy duck eight feet across the room.
Using the upcyclables – plastic bottles, strips of wood, plastic cups and more – the toy ducks were flying thanks to the new, inventive contraptions the kids created.
“It’s fun because we get to make stuff out of the things we can destroy,” said camper Ethan Park, 9.
This was Sam Burnes’ sixth year at the camp. “It’s always different every year and you get to use your imagination,” said the 11-year-old.
Before making the launchers, camp teacher Joe Schiller gathered the campers together and told stories of the first digital camera.
“It was big and bulky and pictures weren’t that great,” he said.
He traced the history of phones, speaking of older phones connected to walls, followed by cordless phones and cell phones.
Schiller also touched on math skills, asking the length of wood strips, in yards, that campers would need for five teams to make the duck launchers.
“They use their creativity and problem-solving skills,” Schiller said about the camp projects. “They use teamwork skills, too.”
Additionally kids kept notes in their camp journals detailing their inventions and how they might work.
Camp Invention is a national program offered through the nonprofit Invent Now, Inc. out of North Canton, Ohio. Fee for the week-long camp, running from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. was $225.
Spring Lake Park District 16 Community Education schools presented the program.
Camp Invention is offered in partnership with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
At the beginning of the week, the campers navigated their way to find treasure-filled caches.
Geography was not left out of the mix either. The campers, in a high energy game, learned what continents countries were in as the youngsters raced from table to table in search of a slip of paper with Asia on it when they were asked to locate China, for instance.
But when camp teacher Emily Anderson had her doubts about whether the kids would know where Oceania was because it’s a relatively new name, she said, one bright camper yelled out, “I do! It’s Australia!”
As part of the curriculum, campers investigate global problems. Traffic troubles in Paris, France, or a lack of living space in Singapore and they try to come up with creative solutions.
In another project they head to sea to find a sunken ship and to study how scientists use sonar.
Later, Director Haensel displays a table at Northpoint filled with upcyclables. Cardboard tubes, tiny wooden trees, feathers, bells, buttons. Other peoples’ trash. Invention campers’ treasures.
“There’s no time for boredom or inactivity,” Haensel told the Blaine/Spring Lake Park Life. “There’s no shortage of stuff.”
Creativity does not end when the sessions wind down. The campers are sent home with an inventors’ bag filled with rubber bands, balloons, tape and more.
“Kids come away from Camp Invention wanting to do new work at home,” Haensel said. “It leaves them with the impression of wanting to do more with science and inventing.”
For more information on Camp Invention, visit www.campinvention.org.
Elyse Kaner is at