Children explore, imagine, create during Camp Invention

Transforming castaway items into useful tools and imagining solutions to nagging problems, 45 curious young people came to Anoka Middle School for the Arts’ Fred Moore campus to take part in Camp Invention last week.

Max Meyer, 11, poses with prototypes he created for a bionic eye and ear. Photos by Sue Austreng

Max Meyer, 11, poses with prototypes he created for a bionic eye and ear. Photos by Sue Austreng

The June 23-27 experience (sponsored by Pentair) was offered when Anoka-Hennepin Community Education partnered with Invent Now to present the day camp for children entering grades one through six.

During the week, campers immersed themselves in imaginative play and learned academic content like propulsion, invention and bio-mimicry.

Reinforcing and supplementing school-year learning in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math, Camp Invention invited participants to create products made of appliance parts, boxes, tape and other items most might consider junk.

Children worked together to seek innovative solutions to real-world challenges and sharpen 21st century learning skills as they rotated through four modules each day.

And, according to Camp Invention Coordinator Julia Wippler, the Camp Invention kids’ prototypes “look similar to prototypes of some of the childhood inventions of the inventors in the National Inventors Hall of Fame.”

“They are always thinking and always challenging themselves to do something creative. Everyone had a great time brainstorming ideas, exploring concepts and constructing inventions,” said Wippler as students prepared to show off their work during the June 27 showcase event.

“It has been an incredible week of developing team building, engineering, problem solving and creative thinking skills. We have discovered ourselves to be inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs,” she said.

In fact, on Camp Invention’s final day, children put finishing touches on their inventions, decoded a mega sensory mix-up and finished designing insect-themed pinball machines, appropriately called “pinbug” machines.

Expressing his camp experience pleasure, 11-year-old Camp Invention participant Max Meyer said, “Camp Invention is a great place for creators to come together and also to learn new skills.”

Skills were mastered as campers rotated through modules like Super Go! (in which they designed, planned and created vehicle prototypes), Amplified (exploring the senses and creating prototypes for bionic hands, fingers, eyes, and ears) and more.

Students kept inventor’s logs along the way, listing identified problems and solutions they imagined and then documenting discoveries, noting design specifications, and recording details of their creative solutions.

“The next group to solve the world’s problems is this group right here. These kids are intelligent, creative, curious, and confident. They are the problem solvers of tomorrow,” said Rick Wippler, a retired educator who served as a Camp Invention instructor.

Rick Wippler (Camp Invention Coordinator Julia Wippler’s dad) joined other local educators to facilitate the Camp Invention modules as high school and college students served as leadership interns.

As Camp Invention came to a close and the June 27 showcase event ended, Julia Wippler gave parents tips to “try to keep your child curious.”

Just because Camp Invention has ended, she said, “it doesn’t mean that your child’s curiosity about the world around them and their inventive spirit can’t continue all year long.”

She invited parents to encourage children to keep working on their inventions, and then explore the backyard, the kitchen and the garage for further inspiration.

“Find things that interest your child. Wonder and dream with your child, then make a plan to explore,” Wippler said. “You could predict how much your family pet weighs pre-bath and post-bath. Measure and record it. If your child dislikes chores maybe you could build a contraption to transport dirty clothing to the washing machine using pulleys. Does your child like to make things? Give your child a toolbox all their own with screwdrivers, duct tape, nuts and bolts, and twist ties and see what they invent.”

“Enjoy an inventive summer with your child and watch creativity take off.”

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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