Last weekend, two schools from the Fulton Network participated in CPS’ first-ever Invention Convention, which gave students in grades 1-8 the chance to be original and innovative while honing their problem-solving and communication skills.
More than 100 students from Skinner West and Suder Elementary participated in the competition, each of them charged with creating an original invention and presenting it to a panel of judges.
“There were no restrictions on what the students could invent,” said Anneliese Gegenheimer, a consultant with IBM who helped coordinate the event, “but they did have to create a prototype to show how their invention would work.”
IBM was one of six CPS partners to sponsor or contribute to the Invention Convention. Other partners included the Sustain Foundation, Factset, Time2Invent, American Science & Surplus, and Lowis & Gellen, LLP.
The young inventors began their process early in the semester by identifying a problem they wanted to solve.
“Students brainstormed about real problems they face on a daily basis, and spent time imagining and researching inventions that could help solve those problems,” said Kori Milroy, a science teacher at Skinner West. “
Students were allowed to work individually or with a partner, and were responsible for tracking their progress through an invention journal. Each student or pair then prepared a poster board and oral presentation for the day of the competition.
“This competition taught our students about solving real-life problems using creativity and engineering skills,” said Kori Milroy. “I was incredibly proud of all of them for their hard work.”
The top winner of the Invention Convention was 6-year-old Tommy Valerius, a first-grader from Skinner West. Tommy invented what he calls the mag Matty – a magnetic placement that holds children’s silverware in place so that it doesn’t fall on the floor.
“When I was little, like three, I was always dropping my utensils on the floor when I was eating, and my mom and dad got tired of picking them up,” said Tommy. “So I thought this could help other kids fix that problem.”
Tommy received a ribbon and a $500 scholarship for his winning invention. Second and third-place winners received scholarship awards as well, and additional prizes were given to the best performers at each grade level, including Nikolette Weiss and Diya Ahuja, inventors of the Super Pockarella Umbrella.
“These girls pointed out that when kids have to carry umbrellas, they’re often left without hands to carry their stuff,” said Anneliese Gegenheimer. “So for their invention, they added handy pockets to a standard child-size umbrella.”
Shonda Huery, Chief Officer for the Fulton Network, attended the Invention Convention and was amazed at the ability of each child to explain their invention and answer complex questions.
“This showed how our students can really shine as explorers, innovators, and problem solvers,” she said. “It was a unique opportunity for them to use their critical thinking skills in a very creative way. We’re already thinking about how to expand the event for next year.”
In addition to stirring their creativity, participating in the Invention Convention allowed students to build skills in research and organization, and helped improve their ability to speak with poise in front of both their peers and groups of adults.
“The entire process builds their confidence,” said Anneliese Gegenheimer. “It encourages risk and exploration, and teaches them to be advocates for their own ideas.”