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Students get creative at STEM camp

Cary Ashby • Jun 17, 2019 at 9:00 PM

BERLIN HEIGHTS — Lily Lasalle created an invention that will squirt a mother pig to tell her when she’s sitting on one of her babies.

“And it pokes her if she can’t feel it,” said the 8-year-old daughter of James and Karen, of Milan.

That kind of creativity was abundant during the annual Camp Invention at Edison Middle School. The National Inventors Hall of Fame program essentially is learning disguised as fun with campers doing hands-on activities related to science, technology, engineering and math (aka STEM).

Willard City Schools also hosted a Camp Invention. It was sponsored by MTD, which allowed students to attend at a reduced cost.

This year, the camp had four modules: the superhero-based Innovation Force, “DIY Orbot,” farm tech and deep sea mystery.

Students in one module were making etchings for a night light. In another, instructor Chelsey Meagrow taught a lesson on creating an advertisement, which often uses “bold, big writing,” an eye-catching photograph or image and catchy phrases.

“They want to grab your attention,” she said.

Keri Zendejas taught the “DYI Orbots” module.

“The kids are destructing an Orbot to see how it runs, how it works. They are learning about incline, decline (and) simple machines. They have to figure out how to build a bridge for their Orbot to get up and over the bridge or under a tunnel,” said the preschool teacher at the Norwalk Catholic School Early Childhood Center.

“We had to have them choreograph a dance with another Orbot. We had them draw with a marker with their Orbot,” Zendejas added. “They’re cool. There were a lot of spirals, a lot of circles, a lot of straight lines, but the kids had a lot of fun.”

Students selected the type music to which their Orbot, a handheld robot, could dance. To choreograph the partner dance, the children had to complete a sheet with the steps.

“They could do classical, they could do Latin, they could do techno; it was really fun,” Zendejas said.

On Thursday, her students’ challenge was to turn their Orbot into a bulldozer to push down a tower.

“I’m using metal for mine,” said Liam Marshall, of Norwalk, the 7-year-old son of Sean Meadows and Matthew and Megan Marshall.

The campers created capes and masks for their superheroes during the Innovation Force module. 

“Yesterday we made symbols on them,” said Marshall, who created the character Darkstalker. “My super power is skill. Another super power is (fear) because it’s easy to scare kids.”

During the farm tech module, campers had to “create something that alert us when the pigs are in danger,” said Ella Rogers, of Berlin Heights.

The 9-year-old daughter of Scott and Nancy put a tracker on a “pig” while a gear box monitored the tracker.

“It was very effective,” she said.

Zendejas was asked what the students could use from Camp Invention in school or real life.

“I think the biggest thing for them is to go out and experiment, take things apart — with their parents’ permission to do that — and just figure out how things run and how they can change it to make it something different,” she said.

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