Westminster Schools fourth-graders present problem-solving gadgets

The innovative ideas of local fourth-graders -- from "Light Slippers" to a "Super Sunscreen Spreader" -- were presented to judges Thursday as part of Westminster Schools of Augusta's annual Invention Convention.


"How did you come up with this idea?" asked Ron Downey, one of the judges, to Blase Emerson, who presented his invention, "The Glowing Bed Belt."

"If you get up in the middle of the night and go to the restroom, you'll have this on and can turn the light on and it will lead the way," Blase said, pointing to a small LED light attached to a fleece belt that's meant to be worn to bed.

Fourth-grade science teacher Kathy Buurma said the event has been going on for 15 to 20 years at Westminster. Thursday's judging started in the morning; parents and members of the community were invited to see the inventions during the evening. If students received a certain number of points, they were given a blue-ribbon award.

Buurma said the convention is the culmination of a seven-week process, which begins with fourth-graders learning about famous inventors, such as Orville Wright and Henry Ford. Pupils then must identify some problems adults have and devise an invention idea to solve the problem.

Pupils research and develop their idea, and have adults test it and offer suggestions. They also learn advertising techniques and create ad posters before the judging.

On Thursday, Charis Puckett showed off her "Super Sunscreen Spreader," which allows a person to apply sunscreen on his own back by way of an extended tube that has a sponge on one end and an opening on the other for the lotion.

A "Light Slippers" invention by Alex Diamond also caught a judge's attention. The slippers had a light embedded in the front with wires leading back to batteries, which were activated as a person's heel applied pressure to the back of the slippers. He said the idea is to help someone see where they're going in the dark.

Buurma said the inventions teach children to be lifelong problem-solvers and the construction phase also offers children and their family quality time together. She said the results epitomize Westminster's theme for the year: Break the Mold.

"They are definitely breaking the mold," Buurma said of the inventions.



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