Camp teaches youngsters the process of invention

School’s out and summer’s in, and you know what that means: Summer camps are in full swing.

One such camp, iInvent,  kicked off a statewide program June 18 to 22 in Linn County at Seven Oak Middle School.

The camp was the first of an Oregon State University-affiliated program sponsored by The Lemelson Foundation. Its focus was on the process of invention.

“The only reason why my mom told me to come here is because I need more friends for next year, because not all my friends are going to Seven Oak,” said Karlei Untiet, 12.

Well, Karlei did make a lot of new friends, she said, but she also learned what it takes to be an inventor.

iInvent Summer Camp, lead by OSU students, teaches middle school kids about the invention process while applying creativity, problem solving, leadership and educational skills.

The Lebanon campers first learned the five steps to successful inventing — empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. Karlei describes it this way:

Empathize is “to feel bad for some people, or just to put ourselves in other people’s shoes.” Then you define the problem. Ideate is “doing skits and making your mind think really hard.” The prototype is to “build your ideas, what you are empathizing about,” and testing is to “test how your empathizing skills worked, or your creation.”

First, the kids teamed up and interviewed the counselors, who could use help making their lives as college students easier. Then they developed inventions to solve college student problems. Finally, they presented their inventions in infomercial fashion.

The result? Five inventions to help college students organize their stuff or have less weight to carry around school, and one invention for tired feet.

The “Fancy Back” is a backpack designed with duct tape and lots of secret pouches. The “Book N Box” and “Easy Organizer” help students organize all their stuff. The “Eco Pack” and “Backfolds” are portable organizers that include a compartment for food and gym or work clothes. And then there’s the “Extra-ny Cushiony Cushions,” an affordable, duct-taped invention for aching, burning feet.

Karlei thought the groups came up with good ideas.

“I think all of them were good because everyone is different and everybody’s idea is perfectly fine, as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody,” she said.

Silas Brammer, 9, didn’t know what to expect when he joined iInvent. He just knows he likes inventing and science.

Silas was on the “Eco Pack” team. He thinks the next thing he will invent is new origami, he said. He’s thinking he wants to be an origami book maker when he grows up.

“I’ve made finger puppets,” Silas said. “I invented how to fold a Darth Vader out of origami. There are multiple types of Darth Vaders, but I invented one.”

iInvent Summer Camp continues through August at 14 other locations throughout Oregon.