By Lisa Capobianco
Fourth grader Joey Mazzarella of Thalberg School always knew it was difficult for students to carry their lunches every day while walking the hallways with their backpacks in tow. In order to make lunch time less stressful, he created “Lunch on a roll,” using a variety of materials such as an electronic toy with wheels, a remote control from a kit, cardboard, and plastic electrical ties. The result was a lunchbox that would travel with students while walking to the cafeteria.
“Lunchboxes were taking up too much room in backpacks,” said Joey, who spent two weeks modifying the original lunchbox.
Joey’s classmate, Camille Rollins, saw drivers struggling to scrape ice off their vehicles this past winter, and decided to create a tool to make the task easier: the “Ice-Be-Gone-9000.” Using tools such as a syringe, a scraper, a glove, plastic tubing and tape, Camille created a new ice scraper that would help drivers in the winter just by adding hot water inside the product.
“I was watching my mom scrape ice off her car, and I came up with the idea of finding a way to make it easier,” said Camille, adding that she loves how the scraper is attached to the glove so drivers can keep their hands warm while getting the ice off their vehicles.
Both Joey and Camille were just one of many fourth and fifth graders in Southington who presented their products before judges during the first district-wide Invention Convention, which took place at Flanders Elementary School last week. About 20 top inventors were chosen, and will now have an opportunity to present their product to the Connecticut Invention Convention (CIC) on May 3. CIC is a nonprofit educational program designed to create and enhance the critical thinking skills in students in grades K through eight through invention and innovation while promoting interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), reported the Convention’s website.
John Duffy, the PreK-12 Science Curriculum Coordinator of Southington Public Schools, said students began the process in March when fourth and fifth grade teachers introduced inventors and the inventing process during hands-on class activities. Students had the option of presenting their invention during the district-wide event.
Duffy served as a judge, along with math coordinator Dale Riedinger, technology education staff and officials from the town’s engineering department as well as high school students involved in Project Lead the Way—a leading provider of STEM programs nationwide. Judges chose the top inventors based on originality, effectiveness, practicality and need. They asked students four to five questions, such as “How did you come up with the problem” and “Who benefits from this invention?”
“This is introducing creativity into the design process,” said Duffy, adding that the invention convention served as an opportunity for students to “use their talents in a way that a typical classroom does not allow them to.”
Linda Reilly, Joey and Camille’s fourth grade teacher, said she felt impressed by her students’ determination to complete their inventions even when they experienced setbacks during the design process, adding that she feels proud of the way they used their creativity.
“I am so amazed with what they came up with,” said Reilly, adding that students are ready to take part in more STEM-related projects. Reilly added that she hopes the intervention convention will inspire students to continue exploring the invention process, and to keep trying even if they do not succeed the first time.
Student-teacher Tony Arru saw students’ complete their designs from start to finish. Arru said students first learned what an invention is through an activity that involved modifying a paper bag using a variety of materials, such as twist ties and bubble wrap—turning the bag into something new.
“[Inventions are] also something that gets changed or modified,” said Arru, adding that he felt impressed by the students’ creativity and problem solving.
Students also conducted research on what makes an invention, including patents, brainstormed a list of major inventions and learned about a number of renowned inventors, including Henry Ford.
Arru said he feels proud of the fourth graders’ self-motivation and ability to think outside the box, especially during the paper bag activity.
“They showed me some of that creative process,” said Arru, adding that students transformed the paper bag into items he did not event think of, including a plane and a boat.
During the invention convention, Camille’s mother, Amanda Rollins, said the invention convention served as a “unique opportunity” for children to learn how to use their creativity to improve the lives of others.
“It was all self-driven,” said Rollins, adding that she would love to find a way to have Camille’s product manufactured.