Campers get their STEM on at Camp Invention

By Douglas McCulloch | Jun 30, 2017
Photo by: Douglas McCulloch Carlos Jeronimo, Annie O'Neil, Ella Plouffe, and Colin Kelly show off their duct tape inventions.

A group of Dartmouth kindergartners and first graders think they’ve discovered a new planet.

There isn’t enough oxygen to sustain human life on American Planet, but there are plenty of plants and animals that call the planet home. Sustained by water and pet food, its inhabitants live in thin and tall cardboard boxes on the planet’s surface.

The planet is not really a planet, but rather a project created by kindergartners and first graders during the week-long summer program, Camp Invention. The program emphasizes creative problem-solving and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

From June 26-30, 108 students entering grades K-6 attended the camp, sponsored by the National Inventors Hall of Fame, according to DeMello teacher and camp director Leslie Gamache.

The program came to Dartmouth when the Ohio-based organization approached the district about hosting an iteration of Camp Invention in Dartmouth. As the district is currently pushing STEM education in the classroom through programs like before-school makerspace clubs, tech upgrades, and robotics programs, Gamache said the district felt it was a perfect addition to continue its mission.

Students rotated through five stations each day. Projects included creating a planet and its inhabitants, presenting cardboard and duct tape-crafted goods to mock investors, building blasters that launch bubbles into the air and compete in physics-themed challenges, and building electronics following a circuitry lesson.

Over the week, Sydney Plouffe has taken apart old VCRs, computers, and other electronics, and salvaged parts to build an alarmed box that goes off whenever the box is opened.

“It works because there’s a light sensor,” said Plouffe, finalizing the project at the “Operation Keep Out” station. “When the box is closed, it doesn’t go off since it’s dark.”

Carlos Jeronimo finished his pet seat belt at the “Duct Tape Billionaire” invention station. Although it hadn’t been judged by a panel of mock investors yet, he was feeling confident in his creation to help protect pets riding in cars.

“It’s for animals like hamsters and dogs, and it goes around their chests so they’re safe,” he explained as he showed off his contraption.

By week’s end, Gamache was impressed with the turnout and enthusiasm from campers. The signups exceeded expectations, and she’s already looking for ways to improve the program next year.

“Parents are saying their kids are so tired when they get home because they’re going all day long,” Gamache said. “The goal is having fun, and if they’re learning something and having fun, it’s a win-win.”

Delaney Ferrick shows a stick figure and mock house her group built for their planet. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Mock plants students created. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Gabriel Coughlin, Gavin Simonin, and Lee Taylor work on creating a slingshot. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Camp Director Leslie Gamache helps Hayley Mimoso diagnose an issue with her alarm box. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Sydney Plouffe shows off her finished alarm box. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Taking a break from STEM-themed activities, Izaah Aiello uses a sponge to make a pile of shaving cream disappear during a one-hour outdoor activity station. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
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