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Camp Invention providing spark for students

Students play outside during a break from the projects at Camp Invention recently. (Photo by Jacob Sturm)

By Jacob Sturm

Students participating in the Camp Invention program had their creativity on full display this
past week.

The camp, which took place at Mustang Trails Elementary this past week, is run by teachers and
students and has proven to be fun for kids of a multitude of ages. Angie Choate, the MPS STEM
Facilitator, said the camp helps students gain confidence through solving real-world problems
and building prototypes.

“Camp Invention is a part of National Inventors Hall of Fame and is designed to help students
create, collaborate and gain confidence through building prototypes and solving real-
world problems,” Choate said. “Our STEM camp has been very popular and has had a waiting
list for all 4 years of participation. The courses this year are Mimic Bot, Pop up Venture,
Catching Air and Invention Celebration. I’m especially proud of the Mustang teachers that are
awesome instructors and our volunteer high school students that are our amazing student

Camp attendees work on four different modules throughout the week. Paula Sharp, the
director of the camp, offered insight into the camp activities.

“It is very in-depth, and we have four lower grade classes (first through third) and four upper
grades (fourth through sixth), but they do the same modules,” Sharp said.

For 2023, the theme for the camp was wonder. That meant the projects were designed to be
meeting that theme. One of those modules was a pop-up shop teaching the kids about
entrepreneurship through building the shop, supplying it and creating a business plan.

Another project was invention celebration, where students learn how to event plan through
bringing in some robot technology and assistance in the project.

The mimic bot project was also available according to Sharp, where students chose a habitat for
a creature they made and made decisions on how the creature would survive.

“It does mimics them,” Sharp said. “So, they could tell it things and it would copycat them.”

The fourth and final project is a skatepark, where kids figure out the physics associated with the
project and how to attach and fold the materials for the project to work.

“They are learning science, they are learning math, they are learning engineering (and) they are
learning all kinds of technology,” Sharp said. “They are experiencing growth mindset like never before. We talk about the fact that frustration is a part of the process and we work through it… We just learn resilience that way, and we really are coming up with some incredible projects.”

The students are also not being told what to come up with for projects, but are given ideas and
allowed to come up with the projects on their own.

Students are also challenged in the camp, letting them grow through working in formats that
work with them.

“They’re learning so many things,” Sharp said. “… It leaves a lasting impression.”

Sharp said the camp is fairly popular, but does have a cap of 130 students so the attendees can
get whatever they need to succeed. She encouraged parents to use promo codes the camp
sends out and to enroll for the camp early.

The camp also offers opportunities for high school and middle school kids to learn leadership
skills through the leadership intern (LI’s) status. Wesley Horn, who will be a senior at Mustang
High School, has served as an LI for the past three years. He talked about his experience.

“It’s been really cool to get to do this three years in a row,” Horn said. “I’ve definitely been able
to see myself change and grow over the years. I’ve been able to see my kids change and grow. I
had one that I started out with, and next year he is going to come back as a LIT (Leadership
Intern in Training), so he’s going to help lead this program and it’s amazing to watch.”

“…Honestly, the best part for me is to just see all of these brilliant young minds really have an
amazing outlet for their creativity, and to just get to watch them grow across the week,” Horn

There are also opportunities for the kids to participate in games geared toward STEM skills,
including water games that happened Thursday.

Horn said he learned about the program following his freshman year of high school. He said the
high school students receive 40 service hours for their work with the program, but stressed the
experience itself as what draws him back each year.

For parents considering signing their kids up for this program in the future, Horn spoke highly of
the camp.

“This program was unlike anything I was able to do when I was a kid… It’s such an amazing
outlet to express both your creative (skills), but also enhance those STEM skills, which are
essential,” Horn said. “… It’s just really is great to see those gears turning, especially over the
summer, and just really keeping those gears working. It’s just an incredible enrichment

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