WHATELY — The 31 bright young minds tinkered, collaborated, and expanded Thursday at Camp Invention.
“This is my simple incline track slash marble boxer,” said 10-year-old Magnus Harrison of Deerfield, at the week-long engineering program held in Whately Elementary School.
Around Magnus, foam pipe insulation snaked under classroom chairs, over tables, directing marbles into fan switches and matchbox cars.
“I drop a marble down the chute, it rolls around and falls into the box because the slope of this end is greater than that end,” Magnus explained.
Since Monday, children from kindergarten through 5th grade have built Lego structures, “marble mazes,” K’nex towers, self-driving cars, and robots. Each day students received a new challenge and raw materials, watched an inspirational video about the subject, and then tackled the objective. Build a bridge, propel a car, lift an object.
Lessons are cumulative. Today they’ll create a “monster trap” triggered by marbles.
“How they go about doing it is up to them,” said Donna Carmody, a 4th grade Sunderland Elementary School teacher. There’s no correct way to complete the challenges. One student put floss inside their marble track “because it’s slippery,” Carmody said. “And who’s to say it’s wrong?”
“One of the most important skills is collaboration. Nobody owns any idea,” she continued. A few students substituted their own materials to complete projects, such as a straw instead of a wooden axle. Others created a pulley system out of a cardboard box, forgoing cups given for that purpose.
Camp Invention, which ends today, is based on Makerspace, a national initiative that promotes hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Students learn hard scientific principles like Newton’s first law of motion, according to Louise Law, Union 38 school system’s director of elementary curriculum. Union 38 oversaw the program.