LARWILL — Camp Invention is a nationwide program organized to familiarize children with science, technology, engineering and mathematics projects, or STEM. While attending Indiana’s Association for the Gifted’s High Ability Conference, camp director Ashley Roberts was introduced to Camp Invention and became interested in bringing the program to Whitko Community Schools.

The camp completed its fourth year of operation at Whitko Middle School the week of July 16, each day operating from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The five staff members of Whitko’s Camp Invention are actual teachers in the district, which becomes helpful in facilitating and guiding the children. Four high school volunteers, parent volunteers and four middle school counselors-in-training composed the rest of the team.

This year, Camp Invention’s theme was “Fast Forward,” and all projects were focused on what life may be like in the future. Campers attended four themed modules with varying themes and projects each day.

In Mod My Mini Mansion, campers constructed a futuristic home out of cardboard and craft items that required a power source, such as windmills or solar panels, and six smart devices. Campers designed smart showers, sinks and ovens, and the rest of the home’s designs and amenities were free choice.

The OptiBot classroom required campers to construct various courses for a small, battery-operated robot designed to follow dark black lines. In the middle of the week, campers were instructed to make an underwater-theme course that led the robot into a cave, turning on a motion-sensor light, and then go back out of the cave. On another day, campers designed vehicles that could withstand crashes enough to protect people.

Another module taught campers about health and medical science. In Robotic Pet Vet, each camper was given a small, robotic dog that they were required to decorate. Campers were instructed on white and red blood cells, viruses, urinalysis and taking samples from bone marrow. At the end of the week, they designed a robotic dog park.

The fourth element of Camp Invention was called Stick to It, in which campers were given a different problem-solving or inventive project each day. On one day, they designed wearable attire, such as armor or capes. Another day, campers designed a mini golf course. In other times, campers had free rein to design anything, such as a board game.

Each activity is modified per age group, as campers range in age from 6 to 12 years old. Favorite activities varied among the campers, though many mentioned Robotic Pet Vet as a top activity because of the dogs’ cute barks and sifting through the red and white blood cell simulation. Hardest activities varied as well, depending on the camper’s experience and interests.

“The mansion was the hardest because you have to think of things and then execute it,” said Amira, age 10.

Whitko’s Camp Invention attendance grows each year and is expected to continue this trend in the coming years. The first year of its operation, 43 campers attended and were mostly younger campers. This year, 70 campers participated and the number of older campers increased, as many are returning campers from previous years.

Roberts has been the camp director for all four years and continues to be inspired by the campers each session.

“The best part of Camp Invention is the creativity aspect,” said Roberts. “The campers problem-solve and persevere through the projects.”

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