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Camp Invention creating new inventors

COAL CITY – Whether it’s creating a car of the future or making an eyeball while learning about the five senses, science has never been so exciting as it is during the week of Camp Invention in Coal City.

The camp is a summer enrichment program offered at Coal City Intermediate School for any child in the area.

Olivia Rayola and Emma Kenney sat in a classroom transformed into the “Morphed Lab” Monday pondering about what a car would look like in the year 2050.

“Technology is getting better,” Kenney explained. “Soon we’re going to have flying cars.”

Their prototype vehicle was being created in a shoe box complete with plush blue seats and blue with white polka dot carpeting.

Fourth-grade teacher Betsy Cowherd said the program offers children an opportunity to learn about science in a fun hands-on way that gets the children thinking while learning about things like inventing, patents and copyright.

“They are learning how to put two things together to invent something new,” Cowherd said.

At another table in the Morphed Lab, Logan Seamans was working on creating a “super powered motor.” After duct taping together several batteries, circuits were attached to them to make a motor turn.

Seamans and his friends were busy seeing what the motor could do to carve out Styrofoam and pop bubble wrap.

“I like everything about this,” Seamans said. “This is better than school.”

At another table Geno Eberhard, Zac Blackmore and Mason Howard were busy putting together a circuit that would create musical sounds.

“It makes different music sounds and you can connect it to the music booster,” Eberhard said. “It’s very complicated. It doesn’t have good instructions, but we’ve gotten a few to work.”

This was Howard’s first year attending Camp Invention, and he said it seemed like something interesting to do during his summer break and he couldn’t wait to try it.

Down the hall, younger children in the first and second grade age group were creating slime.

“We made sea slugs by mixing green finger paint and stuff,” August Burns said.

This is the sixth year the program has been offered at Coal City Intermediate School and is being led by Camp Invention director Jennifer Rink, along with teachers Neil Nicholson, Cindy Jelm and Cowherd.

“It’s a nice extra opportunity for kids to enjoy science,” Rink said. “There are four different modules this year, and the children are grouped by age.”

The modules include Amplified, Super Go, Morphed and I Can Invent.

In Amplified, Nicholson is teaching about the five senses. Students will learn about one sense each day, and by Friday, the last day of camp, they will learn how the senses all tie back to the brain.

The I Can Invent module will have the younger children take apart electronics and upcycle mechanical parts to build a pinball machine while the older children will create a Rube Goldberg device. A Rube Goldberg device, named after an inventor, is an over-engineered machine that performs a very simple task.

The Super Go module will have children creating a vehicle that is powered by an alternative fuel that is capable of flying and driving on land and in water, so the vehicle must morph to be able to adapt to the different environments.

The Morphed Module allows children to invent without limits and tinker with circuits and design utilizing features of nature.

“They learned how Velcro was invented after a man walked through a field and had cockleburs stick to his pants,” Cowherd said. “The design challenge is to base it on nature.”

Rink said the program uses STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) concepts.

According to the Camp Invention website,, STEM concepts are explored via hands-on creative problem-solving activities where children are inspired to be curious about their world and are prepared for the future.

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