Students in Julie Fanelli-Denny’s class at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton have been using their thinking caps to create inventions this year, and their hard work was rewarded in January when two of their creations won recognition in the Smithsonian-ePals Global Invent It! Challenge.
The Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation teamed up with ePals, an online educational community, for the second annual Invent It! Challenge where the students’ inventions were judged in the 5 to 8 age group for improving an existing invention. The students’ “Dr. Bot Water Fountain Mask” won runner up and their “Just Right Pajamas” won the “Judges Want It” mention.
The students grouped up and some worked independently to solve a real world problem by inventing or improving a product already in existence. To enter into the contest, the students had to recognize a problem, find ways the problem could be solved and design a prototype or model of the invention.
The class of 5- to 10-year-olds were ecstatic to learn they had done so well in a competition out of nearly 300 prekindergarten to 12th grade students across the globe who submitted their ideas, according to Ms. Fanelli-Denny.
“They were so psyched,” she said last Friday. “For their work to be validated like that, they’re never going to forget that.”
Ms. Fanelli-Denny said the contest came at just the right time because, as part of their regular curriculum, the students had been reading about inventors and their lives, and the importance of perseverance when creating something new.
According to students Devyn Eames, Rachel Saccone, Beatrix Huberty, Olive Purazzi and Tola Bliss, every time someone drinks out of the water fountain at school, their face gets wet, especially for students who are shorter. The group of students designed the Dr. Bot Water Fountain Mask—named for the first letter in each of their first names—to keep water from dripping down fountain drinkers’ chins. After building a prototype out of a tall piece of cardboard and covering the top of it with soft, blue foam, the students tried out their invention. By trial and error, the students decided they needed a smaller and more sterile solution.
For their efforts, which won them runner up in their age group, the students were awarded with a LEGO set, a Smithsonian/ePals beach ball and an ePals Earth stress ball.
Oliver Simoncic, who invented the “Just Right Pajamas,” wanted to find a way to stay cool at night because he said he sweats in his pajamas. Oliver decided to cut “air holes” in his prototype pajamas.
Other students in the class invented a wide range of products from another, similar pair of breathable pajamas to an indoor plant watering system, sanded-down paper that doesn’t give paper cuts, a new board game that incorporates physical activity, a new and improved funnel and a fingertip mouse for a computer.
According to the Smithsonian, the ideas submitted by students were many in number and covered a wide range of problems.
“We saw a six-fold increase over last year in the number of submissions,” said Smithsonian Assistant Secretary for Education and Access Claudine Brown. “The quality and creativity demonstrated by the students were outstanding.”
For Ms. Fanelli-Denny, however, her students’ creativity was awe-inspiring, especially the more technical ideas like the fingertip mouse—an idea that students who grew up in another era wouldn’t have dreamed about.
“I am so impressed with what they came up with,” she said. “They have so many ideas and they’re infectious.”
Stressing that creativity is all about perseverance, Ms. Fanelli-Denny said that the students will continue to improve their inventions.
“They know that all their ideas were valuable and they’ll have the chance to actually work it out,” she added. “To see that they are a crucial part of the world, if they understand that at an early age, that’s great.”