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Camp Invention at RU whets appetite for scientific curiosity

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Maggie Dent (left) and Kara Nicholson put their heads together to solve a problem with Kara's vehicle as the two take part in the "Super Go" activity during Camp Invention

Reed-Curie Hall again brimmed with scientific curiosity and creativity Friday as more than 70 participants wrapped up Camp Invention.

The 2014 edition of the camp focused on building machines and vehicles and helping the elementary school-age students get in touch with their five senses. It was the sixth year the camp was hosted by Radford University.

The students showed their inventions off to their parents Friday after closing ceremonies held under the oak tree in front of the venerable science building. College of Science and Technology Dean Orion Rogers' questions, "Did you have fun?" and "Did you learn anything?" were met by resounding "Yeses" and proud parental smiles.

Mason Mabry, a third-grader at Wytheville's Spiller Elementary School, said he was "smarter" about a lot of things now as he proudly showed off a multi-turreted tank he built out of pieces the campers cannibalized from discarded household items.

"I think I am smarter about mechanics and solving problems," he said. "This beats sitting around the house all week, for sure."

James Newcomer talked about how the Camp Invention experience helped his son, Jaiden, keep him, a former science teacher, on his toes.  Jaiden is a sixth-grader at Belle Heth Elementary School in Radford.

"He has challenged me with a lot of questions, some of which I have never even thought of about the way things work," he said of his son, who is a six-time Camp Invention attendee and aspires to be a camp counselor-in-training next year and then a cancer researcher.

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Camp Invention attendees working on their "Super Go" project

Camp Invention has been hosted at RU since 2009. Between its home in Reed-Curie and its staff, it has a distinctive Radford flair. The staff is all RU alumni who appreciate the way the campus enhances the teaching and learning environment.

"Radford and Reed-Curie are great places to help children discover what science is all about," said Angela Price, MS. '07. "The kids are surrounded here by science and science stuff."

Jessica Hamblin '04, a four-year veteran of the weeklong event which puts campers through four classes that introduce them to contemporary and classic scientists and inventors, said it was unique to teach a class in a room in which she once took classes.

She added, "There is a whole lot of tinkering going on as we try and inspire these children and help them develop problem-solving and teamwork skills in a science setting."

In one class called "PinBug," campers, reassemble parts from old appliances and devices into a custom pinball machine. In the "SuperGo" class, campers design and make their own motor-powered vehicle taking cues from natural forms of locomotion to guide them in their process. Other class projects include morphing everyday objects into robots and dragons utilizing circuit boards and LED lights.

Jul 3, 2014