Camp Invention brings out student innovators

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 2, 2018

 At Camp Invention, held June 28 at Brownell Middle School in Grosse Pointe Farms, Aidan Omowale, an incoming second-grade student at Kerby Elementary, left, and Mae Stanley, who will be in second grade at Monteith Elementary, walk their robotic dogs.

At Camp Invention, held June 28 at Brownell Middle School in Grosse Pointe Farms, Aidan Omowale, an incoming second-grade student at Kerby Elementary, left, and Mae Stanley, who will be in second grade at Monteith Elementary, walk their robotic dogs.

Photo by Maria Allard

 Addison Swegles, left, and Lucy Cantin try out their “turn boards” to help them do pirouettes. Both students will attend Brownell this fall as sixth-graders.

Addison Swegles, left, and Lucy Cantin try out their “turn boards” to help them do pirouettes. Both students will attend Brownell this fall as sixth-graders.

Photo by Maria Allard

 Isaac Hall, Steven Bethell, Kaitlin Harris and Beatrice Stuckey work in the “Stick To It” room.

Isaac Hall, Steven Bethell, Kaitlin Harris and Beatrice Stuckey work in the “Stick To It” room.

Photo by Maria Allard

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — A total of 121 students got their science, technology, engineering and math skills in gear last week at Brownell Middle School.

The students — entering grades one through six this school year — participated in Camp Invention, a nationally recognized summer program designed to promote STEM learning, problem-solving skills, innovation and teamwork.

Jodie Randazzo, a Kerby Elementary School teacher, was the camp director, and Kerby paraprofessional Jennifer Dillman served as assistant director. 

Five teachers, five counselors in training, 16 National Honor Society students from Grosse Pointe North and South high schools, and several parent volunteers also helped run the program. There was a fee to participate, and Randazzo said scholarships also were available to families to help with costs. 

Camp Invention, held June 25-29 and set up in different classrooms, gave the students the opportunity to gain skills and knowledge through the following hands-on activities: “Optibot,” “Robotic Pet Vet,” “Mod My Mini Mansion” and “Stick To It.” There also was one game area in the camp. 

Inside the “Optibot” classroom, the students created small, self-driving robots that detected changes with light.

“Mod My Mini Mansion” allowed students to design their own futuristic homes with the use of gadgets, LEDs and technology.

Inside the “Stick To It” room, the campers explored the careers of physicists, engineers and entrepreneurs by building prototypes to solve various challenges.

 “Robotic Pet Vet” was the place where the campers made robotic puppies who visited a “veterinarian.” The students even made small dog parks out of various materials, including wood, cardboard, Popsicle sticks and bubble wrap.

“It’s good because I usually like building stuff,” said incoming Kerby third-grader Gabby Josephs, who named her puppy “Ginger” and worked alongside classmate Kylie White. White, who will be in the third grade at Kerby in September, called her dog “Gingersnap” and even provided the robotic pet with a leash.

Aidan Omowale, an incoming second-grade student at Kerby, and Mae Stanley, who will be in second grade at Monteith Elementary when school resumes, walked their robotic dogs down a hallway to try them out. Both enjoyed the Camp Invention experience. 

“They have fun stuff,” Omowale said.

“We get to go to a lot of classrooms,” Stanley said. “I think it’s really fun. I learned you can create whatever you want. If someone says you can’t create that, don’t listen to them.”

When the students finished their daily lessons, they were able to head over to the makeshift supply room to find materials to create their own inventions. Addison Swegles and Lucy Cantin, who will attend Brownell this fall as sixth-graders, found a batch of vinyl records to make what Swegles called “turn boards.” 

When adding duct tape, bubble wrap and a masking tape to the records, the turn boards were used as a prop in ballet. The girls, with turn boards on their right feet, used them to practice pirouettes, which is the act of spinning on one foot, with the raised foot touching the knee of the supporting leg.

“(The turn boards) can help get the right posture and the right form,” said Swegles, who takes dance lessons outside of school. “When you’re turning, you have to really push up. It helps with the turn so you can focus on everything else.”

On June 28, the “Stick To It” program had the students figure out the best way to put out a fake fire from above ground via toy helicopters, paper cups, strings and buttons. The buttons represented water, and the students had to determine the most effective way to dump the paper cups so that the buttons fell out to put out the flames.

At one table, Isaac Hall and Kaitlin Harris, fourth-graders at Monteith; Steven Bethell, a fourth-grader at Kerby; and Beatrice Stuckey, a Trombly fourth-grader, worked together. 

John Weglarz, an NHS student who will be a senior at Grosse Pointe South this fall, was one of the camp volunteers.

“It’s a really fun experience,” he said. “I really enjoyed it. I participate in the activities with them and I also eat lunch with them.”