Camp Invention teaches York kids the importance of staying dry


A group of inventors on a warm Thursday afternoon marched out to their water balloon battlefield, a patch of grass outside Pleasant View Elementary School divided into four quadrants, ready to test their creations — shields fashioned from cardboard, duct tape, plastic and other household products — and the team that ended the battle the least wet would be rewarded handsomely.

The 39 kids participating in Camp Invention every day compete in the water balloon battle, dubbed the Hydro Challenge, for points that can be used to purchase objects to better their main invention, a cart that on Friday will run through a maze with a catch: It will have to keep them dry as they're targeted by water pistols and have balloons hurled at them.

After each battle, the students go back to the design phase and figure out how to make their shields better so that they can end the battle drier.

The shields: "We started out with one main shield," said 9-year-old Charlie McClain, referencing a low-to-the-ground, cardboard fort, wrapped in plastic bags and duct tape. "But the entire team couldn't fit behind it, so we got really wet the first day. We kept that as our main shield and built four smaller ones to wrap around us, this way we're all a lot safer from the water."

James Bland, 11, on a competing team, said his team focused on waterproofing.

"We used bubble plastic and we have plastic bags to get the water to just push right off our shields," he said.

In the end, one team remained completely dry and raked in a whopping 100 points to use at the Hardware Store, where items such as rope, cardboard and skateboards were on sale for 20, 25 and 200 points, respectively.

The modules: The Hydro Challenge is only a small part of the day for the young creators at Camp Invention, a weeklong summer camp for students in first through sixth grades.

"The day is broken up into four modules: KartWheel, Inducted, Design Studio and I Can Invent," said camp director Erica Fabie.

KartWheel includes the Hydro Challenge as well as designing and updating creations for the maze race at the end of the camp.

"I Can Invent is where they bring in old household objects like VCRs and radios and then they get to take those apart and kind of see how they're put together," Fabie said. "They also get to use the scraps in some of their inventions."

This module utilizes the principle of reverse engineering, and students are asked to build on old inventions with their creativity.

Inducted explores those that have been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

"They look at things that have been patented and then we ask how they can take it a step further," Fabie said. "The other day we talked about Ester Takeuchi; she created the battery. So we brought that down to their level and asked them to be creative and what they would do to make it better."

And in Design Studio, students learn about different design concepts and get to work on different projects daily.

The modules are taught by Red Lion teachers Meghan Busby and James Bellenbaum.

"Today we're doing tanagram puzzles," Busby said, where a pair of students sit on either side of a divider while one of the pair is required to instruct the other on how to create a picture out of the shape pieces.

"It helps them develop spatial relations and communication skills," she said.

"The other day we had a tallest skyscraper contest where we built towers out of only newspaper and duct tape, so they got to learn about some architecture and building concepts.

"This morning we made stomp rockets and they had to get them to land in a target, that taught them about trajectory and modifications."

Inventor's log: Each creation is designed and modified in the student's log.

Jana Shoffner, 9, flipped through her pages, each filled with a newer and more ambitious design.

"This helps us keep track of everything. This is the rocket I built this morning," she said, pointing to the neatly labeled pencil drawing. "I had to fix up some

things on it, like I added feathers and stuff."

It's all about thinking outside of the box, Fabie said.

"We do really focus on the STEM principles — that's science, technology, engineering and math — but it's about creativity, too," she said. "It's about a lot of things ranging from team building all the way to imagination."

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at