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With plastic and cardboard at fingertips, imagination is limitless at camp for young inventors


BLOOMINGTON, Indiana — Old plastic bottles, CDs, plastic light bulb covers and cardboard pizza boxes. Egg cartons, chunks of Styrofoam, rubber bands and buttons in all shapes, sizes and colors.

These are the tools young inventors use to create go-karts, mazes, robots and anything else they can imagine at Camp Invention, a summer program developed by the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Nine-year-old Leah Roepke is working on making a party robot that can be programmed to come out on a certain date and time carrying balloons, playing music and holding forks and plates.

Valarie Thompson, age 8, made a pyramid out of old newspapers and can't wait to show it to her parents. After attending Camp Invention at Indiana University, Valarie has discovered that she likes building things.

"It makes me feel like I can do anything," she said.

In her inventor's journal, she keeps track of all of her ideas for inventions. With red, blue and black markers, she sketches drawings of her contraptions on the pages and jots down notes about how they work. Her journal outlines gadgets like eyeballs, robots and a device that can make people live to the age of 107.

Along with their inventor's journals, the kids at Camp Invention have protective plastic goggles they don after they're given a new challenge from inventors who have been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

In a video, Alois Langer describes his invention, an automatic implantable defibrillator, and then he gives the kids a task.

"Create a new medical invention that can either improve the quality of life for someone ... or something that can save lives," Langer tells the campers.

Each day, the first- through sixth-graders in the camp are grouped by their grade levels and take on a new challenge from an inventor. They bring in old, broken tape recorders, keyboards and other household items that they can take apart and reuse in their gizmos.

"You could use that. That would be much easier," 10-year-old Rawden Harris suggests to 9-year-old Penelope Paul as he points to a piece of wire.

They bend over the wheel of a tape recorder still attached to a green circuit board and work the wire around the wheel until they can get it to spin.

"OK. So, that works now," Penelope says when they're done.

"It is about teaching the kids to think critically, hands-on science, getting them to really think about how they can change the world with their imagination and inventive natures," said Tina Gilliland, a K-12 science outreach coordinator with the office of science outreach at IU's College of Arts and Sciences.

Gilliland gets inspired as she observes the kids working with pipe cleaners and circuit boards. During the camp, one second-grader told her she wanted to become an inventor so she could change lives.

"For a second-grader to be thinking about how they can make a difference was very exciting," she said.

Not only do the campers get to collaborate and try their hands at creating new inventions, they also get to share their inventions with real inventors. The kids at Camp Invention met Richard DiMarchi, distinguished professor of chemistry at Indiana University, who invented Humalog insulin for diabetics. DiMarchi was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.

Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times,

Information from: The Herald Times,

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