Michigan kids solve problems and build skills at Invention Convention

A cacophony of enthusiastic chatter filled the ground floor of the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn on Saturday as more than 160 students from across the state gathered to show off original problem-solving inventions during this year’s Michigan Invention Convention.

More than 1,200 Michigan students participated in regional events to secure a spot in Saturday’s national convention. After choosing a problem they observed in their home, school, or community, students worked individually or in groups to develop an invention that they think will help solve that problem.

“It’s not a problem given to them by an adult; it’s a problem they identify themselves,” said Lucie Howell, head of learning at Henry Ford. “We find that means they are much more engaged in solving the problem.”

Students in grades 3-12 competed in three separate age brackets as judges roamed the floor, stopping at each invention to score it on an official rubric – which Howell says helps ensure that every invention is treated fairly.

Students from seven counties in Michigan present their inventions to the judges at Invention Convention Michigan inside the Henry Ford in Dearborn on April 30, 2022.

“Their inventions are measured against their ability to identify a problem, understand the needs of the audience, come up with different ideas on how to solve that problem, and then design, test and build – which is the engineering design process. traditional,” Howell said. . “But they also need to be able to communicate how their invention solves the problem they were originally trying to solve.”

The top-scoring inventions from each age group will compete in the Raytheon Technologies Invention Convention’s US National Championships, being held June 1-3 at the Henry Ford.

Students prepared verbal presentations to accompany their inventions, some of which included a demonstration or diagram. While some inventors were visibly nervous, others clearly appreciated the opportunity to share the results of their hard work.

“It was fun working with everyone and learning how to separate oxygen from hydrogen,” said fifth-grade student Aastha Shah, who along with classmates Ayroa Swarnkar, Reecha Chavan and Nayana Panicker, has developed a renewable and inexpensive oxygen generator for medical patients. “People were suffering from a lack of oxygen, or they couldn’t afford it. So we made oxygen cheap and readily available.”

Vyktorya Williams, of the Dorsey School of Beauty, left, and judge at Invention Convention Michigan at the Henry Ford in Dearborn on April 30, 2022, listens to Madelyn VanValin and Leila Robinson, both fifth-grade students at the Perry Innovation Center in Grand Blanc speak about their invention of stylish shoes.

Other inventions included a spring-loaded cane (“My grandmother was trying to sit up on the sofa and it hurt a lot,” said inventor and fifth-grade student Aarav Chakravartti), a drone that helps contain forest fires and a scanner that detects concealed weapons.

Howell said the convention not only provides students with a way to practice their problem-solving skills, but also an opportunity for them to build confidence and practice sharing their ideas with new audiences.

“They’re the people who know the most about their own invention, so they feel like they’re the experts,” Howell said. “It’s not often that a student is an expert in a subject when they talk to adults about it. I think that’s where that empowerment comes from, and I think that’s what builds that confidence. “

Some of the many inventions on display and judged at the Michigan Invention Convention inside the Henry Ford in Dearborn on April 30, 2022.

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Cianna Anderson, a 10th grader at Henry Ford Academy who developed a personal organization app with her partner Anthony Mayberry, said being in a space with so many like-minded people helped her overcome her social anxiety.

“It’s so much fun walking around and talking to people. I literally just made a friend,” Anderson said. “When you realize that everyone is collectively a bunch of nerds, it’s easy.”

After the virtual invention conventions in 2020 and 2021, Howell said bringing the in-person event back to the museum created a “completely different” energy.

“I’m not going to decry the fact that we … have this incredible technology that has allowed us to continue the program during the pandemic,” Howell said. “But you’ll never get the same energy online as meeting these young inventors and hearing their stories in person.”

AJ Jacobs, 9, of Saline and a third-grade student at Pleasant Ridge Elementary, shows judges Deepak Dashairya, left, and Adam Trumbley his anti-sogger that keeps breakfast cereal from getting soggy with milk.  Jacobs was one of more than 50 students from seven Michigan counties to have their inventions judged at the Michigan Inventions Convention inside the Henry Ford in Dearborn on April 30, 2022.

This in-person experience is especially crucial for children who lack confidence in their social skills, said Sarah Angelini, parent and teacher at the Perry Innovation Center in Grand Blanc.

“Some of my students who are a little more shy or reserved, once they create this idea, they have such a passion behind it,” Angelini said. “One of my students ran up to me earlier and she was like, ‘Come see mine, come see mine!’ Two years ago, it was not the little girl who was in my class.”

For more information on Raytheon Technologies Invention Convention US Nationals, visit thehenryford.org.

Lauren Wethington is a breaking news reporter. You can email her at LGilpin@freepress.com or find her on Twitter at @laurenelizw1.