PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Campus Center at the University of Maine at Presque Isle was buzzing with activity this past week, as children assembled, tested and even patented unique creations as part of the annual Camp Invention.
A program of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Camp Invention aims to teach children in kindergarten through sixth grade about the problem solving, collaborative, technical and creative skills needed to succeed in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, STEM, fields.
From July 29 to Aug. 2, students took part in four modules — Farm Tech, Innovation Force, Deep Sea Mystery and DIY Orbot — that presented a series of challenges to overcome as a team by inventing new devices and products.
On Thursday, Aug. 1, students in Deep Sea Mystery used wood to assemble their own small “boat” and tested those boats in water to see if they could withstand the weight of washer pits. They then recorded in their Inventor’s Log what caused the ship to either float or sink and how they might improve future attempts.
“Getting to make your own invention is really cool,” said 8-year-old Samanta Argraves, who attended her second Camp Invention this summer.
Argraves said that the camp has inspired her to continue being creative at home.
“At home, I like to find things that are lying around in the woods and make things out of them,” she said.
Innovation Force was another favorite among this year’s inventors. Throughout the week students learned about inventions created by National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees and the importance of patenting and marketing their products. All students designed and engraved their own “superhero logo,” which they patented in order to avoid seeing their ideas stolen by the villain known as “The Plagiarizer.”
Eleven-year-old Evan McEachern has attended Camp Invention for the entire five years that the national program has come to UMPI. He said that he and his fellow inventors have learned the importance of working together and persevering through challenges.
“If something doesn’t work the first time, you try again,” McEachern said.
Camp director Elaine Hendrickson said that Camp Invention is unique because the National Inventors Hall of Fame provides the curriculum and allows staff members to consist of local teachers and student interns. The program gives students early exposure to real-life STEM projects that can inspire them to pursue those types of careers as adults.
Over the past five years, Hendrickson has seen many students return to Camp Invention and become more confident in their STEM skills.
“This year we’ve found that they’ve become better at cooperating while working in groups and thinking outside the box,” Hendrickson said. “We need to keep moving forward as a country, as that involves getting our young people interested in science and technology.”