by Carrie C. Causey
YOUNGSVILLE — A bit of duct tape, an old paper towel roll, some string and a ping pong ball are all it takes to make a seismoscope to measure earthquakes.
For the students of Camp Invention, recycled materials can “solve” some of the most perplexing problems and open a world of new gadgets and gizmos — but most of all engage students in creatively learning about science and math while doing hands-on activities.
From July 8-12, youngsters ranging from first through sixth grade participated in Camp Invention, organized by the nonprofit Invent Now Inc., to make science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education more enjoyable and creative. It took place at Long Mill Elementary School and was taught by several of the school’s faculty.
This year’s camp director, Sara Jones, said the 33 students came from Wake and Franklin counties and many of them attend school at Long Mill.
Though the camp is fee-based, 25 of the 33 were able to participate thanks to scholarships from sponsors and donations.
As a fifth grade science teacher, Jones said the creative approach is “the way I would teach science if I had time and funding. ... The benefits to students are amazing.”
“Duct tape is our friend”
Teacher LaTasha Wilder’s inventors built houses to withstand a hurricane. One group made their property spin whenever the wind blew. Participant Trent Horne said the house needed to have a steady body in order to not be damaged.
“It looks like stuff taped together, but in their minds a lot of thought went into it,” Jones said of the problem-solving creations made of used goods and paper. “In reality, it serves a purpose.”
In teacher Ginger Preddy’s room, students surrounded a kiddy pool filled with water and had traffic cones taped to the bottom.
The group made rafts with pumice stones on them. The challenge was to keep their mini-people safe by crafting a raft that would stay floating when the volcanoes (cones) erupted.
During the experiment, students were chosen to be in charge of the thermocouple to track temperature and the tiltmeter to see if the horizontal level changed. After a final goggle check, they combined vinegar and baking soda to watch the water fizzle. Rafts that had pumice stones floated better than those which didn’t.
“Instead of just reading it in a book, they are creating volcanoes and learning about plate tectonics,” Jones said. “They also made constellation plates that really turn to show the different constellations.”
The students’ biggest project was to create a Duck Chucking Device, a catapult made from recycled materials and designed to help (plastic) ducks return to their native land.
They used pieces from old appliances that they broke apart the first day of camp, including radios, keyboards, a hard drive, clock and a blender. For many of the youth, using screwdrivers and hammers to disassemble things was their favorite aspect of camp.
For Cassie Bell, taking apart an old keyboard was exciting as well as watching the destruction of a computer and an old Wii.
As one of their morning activities, Kierstyn Smith made a jellyfish using a plastic Ziploc bag and some streamers. They had to see who could keep their jellyfish floating in the air.
Jaidyn Hammond enjoyed making a seismoscope to track how much shaking happens during the an earthquake. They made it from duct tape, cardboard and a washer with a ball on the string.
Matthew Green demonstrated how the distance the ball moved shows how much it is shaking. He and Colby Taylor made theirs from duct tape, bottles and a Ping-Pong ball.
As a way to keep people from running red lights, students brainstormed having a bar come down to stop people from going.
Another project was to use recycled materials to build the tallest tower. Taylor said his team lost by a Gatorade bottle because they added one more piece to the top of theirs and it collapsed.
“Duct tape is our friend,” Smith said of their projects.
Help in the classroom
For Taylor, this is the last year he will be able to participate so he wanted to make sure he took advantage of the opportunity. He hopes he will be able to use the skills he learned, especially that of cooperation, to help future school projects.
This was the second time for Haley Williams.
“Each year, they have something different,” she said.
Her favorite part of camp is to go into the recycle room to pick out stuff to turn it into something else. She said learning more about science has helped her on test scores at school.
Preddy taught at the camp for the second year in a row because she loves science. Like Jones, she too wishes she had more time in the classroom to offer more hands-on activities.
“It causes them to use higher order thinking and take the steps to do the work to take something and make it something else,” Preddy said. “Teamwork is a really big skill and you rely on each other to learn the experiments.”
“If we can teach something while doing something fun, everybody wins,” Jones added.