Originally created 06/17/04

Inventions born of imagination, teamwork, a little elbow grease



NORTH AUGUSTA - Caitlyn Smoldt, 7, removed the final screw from her 1980s-style telephone, raised its plastic shell and peered inside.

She quickly ripped the small green circuit board from its base and started snipping all the multicolored wires she could find.

"I never knew what the inside of a phone looked like," Caitlyn said. "I didn't know it had a spring inside. I wonder what that does?"

Caitlyn and about 40 other elementary school pupils are taking household appliances apart and creating new contraptions at Camp Invention, a weeklong science and creativity day camp held at Hammond Hill Elementary School.

Children participate in five activities each day that combine science, math, history and the arts. Throughout the week, they become automobile designers, shipwreck survivors and outer space pioneers - learning how to use teamwork and their imaginations to find solutions.

There are more than 600 invention camps throughout the United States, all sponsored by the National Inventors Hall of Fame. This is the first time one has been held locally.

Pupils have already made paint from red clay and eggs and learned how to make paper from scratch. By the end of the week, their electronic inventions will be ready for an imaginary patent.

Haleigh Mauldin, 8, wants to turn her grandmother's old computer printer into a machine that will repel mosquitoes. Brock Wiegle, 10, wants to turn his computer keyboard into an airplane. Most pupils said they want their inventions to annoy their siblings.

"The activity gets the wheels spinning in their heads, but I don't know what they will come up with by the end of the week," said John Metts, a fifth-grade teacher at Hammond Hill and a counselor at the camp. "We also give them invention logs, where they can show us drawings of their design that helps them outline what they need to do."

Walter Marter, 78, a retired Savannah River Site engineer, helped the children with their machines Wednesday. He said watching the pupils disassemble their appliances was interesting.

"You'll see them just rip into things and just start cutting wires, so I'm trying to help them formalize their ideas and I get a kick out of watching their imaginations at work," he said.

Gabrielle Colapietro, 7, seemed to have the right idea.

"You have to break it to make something new," she said.

Reach Peter Gilchrist at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106 or peter.gilchrist@augustachronicle.com.