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Grace Lindsay made glasses from recycled material. Her intention was to help her mother who wears contacts. Lindsay is a fourth grader at Trombly Elementary School. photo by Renee Landuyt.

July 10, 2014
Some 110 would-be inventors brainstormed about life-saving devices, robots to streamline household chores and hobby must-haves.

These young students were attending the week-long Camp Invention: Morphed at Parcells Middle School last month.

This is the 12th year Grosse Pointe Public School System has offered the program that stresses the STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — curriculum.

Eighth-grade Parcells math teacher Deb Duffey is in her seventh year as director of the program that invites kindergarten through high school students to participate.

"This is open to anyone — private school children can come. It's not limited to the community," she said.

First through fifth graders are the campers visiting five stations during the day — I can invent, amplified, design studio: morphed, super go and energized (gym time).

Middle school students are counselors-in-training and 10 high school students are paid counselors traveling with their young campers. As a group, the campers and counselors move from one module to another. Each module is staffed by a teacher. This year the staff includes Ann Passino, Stefani Maklowski, Holli McNally, Walt Charuba and Joe Ciaravino. Parent volunteers can be seen sorting through donated materials that will be recycled into student-created projects. The Ford Motor Co. allows its executives to volunteer for a day, as well as providing student scholarships.

"This is a fun place," said Grosse Pointe North High School sophomore and counselor George Goffas. He attended the camp as an elementary student and remembers constructing robots. He said the young students today are different than when he attended.

"They have more ideas. They are more vocal and come up with different things," he said.

In the I Can Invent module, students were making pinbugs, a cardboard version of a pinball machine. Using recycled materials, the young students cut a cardboard box to contain the ping pong ball put into motion with a cardboard flipper.

From disassembled items from home, Duffey said, children learn to create something new.

"It's fun to create your own stuff," said Audrey Cho, who enters the seventh grade at Parcells in the fall. "I can take apart a computer and nobody cares. If I did it at home, my dad would get really mad."

Students in the "amplified" classroom turned ideas they sketched in their journals into being, again from recycled materials. The idea was used to enhance one of the five senses.

Grace Lindsay, a Trombly elementary fourth-grader, made glasses to help her mother, who wears contacts. The specs were fashioned from toilet paper rolls and cardboard held together with duct tape. Instead of glass for the lenses, Lindsay found clear hard plastic. A sponge became the nose piece.

Ryan King and Luke Schaupeter made a telescope from paper towel tubing, aluminum foil and duct tape. The lens had once been a Pringle can top. The tripod was made of short wooden dowels and held together with binder twine.

"It is fun," said Schaupeter, who was in his third year of Camp Invention.

Fourth grader James Cramer made binoculars with a shoe box, rubber bands, clear plastic tops and toilet paper rolls.

Brainstorming in the Design studio: morphed, students were to come up with ideas on how to make someone's life better.

First on the list one day was a prosthetic brain allowing people to live to be about 200 years old. The second was the hovering wheelchair to glide above steps. A third idea was the allergy button in which an allergic reaction would be recognized prior to an allergy attack, allowing the allergy-sufferer time to avert a reaction. The allergy button was followed by an emergency button to warn a person of a pending heart attack. The last idea voiced before moving to the creation stage was a vaccine to stop diabetes.

Kristen Krier, a Monteith fifth-grader, was attending Camp Invention for the fifth consecutive year. Her mother was a volunteer.

"I like creating stuff," she said as she worked on a golf bag with pockets, a refrigerator, umbrella holder, shelves and garbage container. "My dad golfs a lot."

At another table in the morphed classroom, Ferry fifth-grader Kennedy Waller, Poupard fifth-grader Madison McAlister and St. Joan of Arc sixth-grader Mau-reen Barrett were working on a cleaning robot. With a Styrofoam head and a peanut butter jar body, the three were creating arms from popsicle sticks and tackling how to get her to move. They couldn't decide if the robot should be pushed or pulled.

Nine-year-old Alex-andria Metry, a Ferry Elementary student, explained the Super Go portion of the program, a battery-operated toy car.

Metry said she learned how to connect two wires to the battery which would create a current turning the fan made of stiff paper to push the car down the hall.

Groups of six and seven raced their cars down the middle school hallway, some making a straight beeline to the finish line, other veering off or turning in wide circles.

At the end of the week, the children took their inventions home.

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