Hatching Innovative Ideas; Engineering Helps Sponsor Invent Iowa

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Students from across the state share creations at Invent Iowa

By Heather Spangler
University of Iowa

Nate Finarty and Caleb Hall from Northstar
Elementary in Knoxville, Iowa, show their
Rail Mail invention at the 2012 Invent Iowa
event in the Seamans Center on the University
of Iowa campus. Photos by Kirk Murray.

Sean McDermott had a problem. His allowance is based on how many eggs he collects on his family farm. But when the family’s goat would nudge him and knock him and his bucket of gathered eggs to the ground, his allowance hopes were dashed in a pail of cracked shells.

Luckily, McDermott, a third grader at Camanche Elementary School, found a way to save his eggs and earn a trip to the Invent Iowa State Scholarship Event in the process.

Sean McDermott explains his invention

Sean McDermott, a third grader from
Camanche, Iowa, describes his award-winning
invention, Sean's Awesome Egg Carrier, at
Invent Iowa.

McDermott invented “Sean’s Awesome Egg Carrier,” a wooden box with built-in shelves to hold egg cartons. He says it is goat-proof.

McDermott’s was one of 16 inventions created by 20 K-12 Iowa students selected to present at the state Invent Iowa event, held May 19 on the University of Iowa campus. Each participant earned a $100 award and a chance to participate for additional scholarships.

This was the 25th anniversary of Invent Iowa, the state’s oldest STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) outreach initiative.

“Our young inventors have been encouraged and celebrated over the last two and a half decades because of the initiative and dedication of U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin and other like-minded individuals,” says Clar Baldus, Invent Iowa state coordinator and administrator for the UI College of Education’s Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development Center’s Inventiveness Programs.

The state convention alternates between the UI and Iowa State University campuses. Support comes from the UI and ISU Colleges of Engineering, the Intellectual Property Law Association, and the Belin-Blank Center.

Other winning inventions this year included the Twist-A-Shovel by Dubuque fifth graders Spencer Arensdorf and Jack Doyle, and the Cart Companion, which helps shoppers organize their lists and coupons, by Central Lee Elementary School second grader Macy Watkins.

Watkins’ mom, Christy, says the invention process was fun and challenging.

“For an 8-year-old to invent something, it’s a great accomplishment,” she says.

Nate Finarty and Caleb Hall, fifth graders from Knoxville, invented Rail Mail, an insert for mailboxes that slides out so that users can reach the back of the box without straining. The pair even invented an adjustable version to fit the three most common mail box dimensions.

This is the second time Finarty has participated in Invent Iowa. He says it’s a great program because “of what you get to achieve.”

Nate’s mom, Liz Finarty, says she enjoys watching her son come up with new ideas through Invent Iowa.

“He starts to look at things differently,” she says. “It really opens their minds.”

Of the 20 inventors chosen to attend the state event, seven inventors, including McDermott, Hall, Finarty, and Watkins, earned top honors with $500 scholarships. An additional 40 students from across the state earned honorable mentions and $50 awards for their inventions.

Olivia Fransen, a fourth grader from Dubuque, created the Beauty Brush, which incorporates a brush, spray bottle, and mirror in one. She says participating in Invent Iowa makes her “feel proud.”

“It proves that kids can make a difference in the world,” Olivia says.

To learn more about the program, visit www.education.uiowa.edu/html/belinblank/programs/students/inventia/Default.aspx.