Students take on STEM challenges at Camp Invention in Carson City

Robots, sports complexes and water purification systems came to life in the hands of creative campers this week at Bethlehem Lutheran School’s Camp Invention, a nonprofit summer enrichment program for youth.

The summer science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program conducted with the National Inventors Hall of Fame along with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

encourages kindergarteners through sixth graders to build planes, gliders, backpacks and other miscellaneous objects and projects of their own. Children are inspired to figure out how become designers and entrepreneurs while learning about various concepts through a fun curriculum with the help of local teachers or volunteers in a weeklong program with staggered schedules.

“It’s all about teamwork, but it’s also about problem-solving,” local director Sara Whitney said.

Whitney, serving her first year in this capacity to keep the program going, said she stepped up because she felt it was important to ensure children are engaged in innovation.

Camp Invention offers four areas of activities, including a Flight Lab, a Design Thinking Project, a Rescue Squad and Champions. Participants develop prototypes, learn different processes and design logos.

Camp Invention began in 1990 in Akron, Ohio. Last summer, more than 130,000 kids took part in 1,500 live camps. However, COVID-19 this year has impacted the number of physical camps available, and now some are being conducted online.

“We’re blessed to be able to do it in person,” Whitney said Thursday at Bethlehem Lutheran at 1837 Mountain St. in Carson City, where at least one Reno student and others from Dayton have joined local Carson students.

The kids this week at Bethlehem Lutheran have enjoyed building their creations and working on their patents and trademarks. It’s an opportunity for them to figure out how to make the world a better place, she said.

“Today, they’ve made soccer fields, baseball fields, track fields,” she said Thursday. “They don’t have to stay in those parameters. They’ve added players … and they’ve added concession stands. This is all about their dream team.”

Whitney said the program’s national headquarters provides at least some scholarship funding to support Camp Invention and donations also have been provided.

“It’s just a great camp and it’s been so fun to watch them and their eyes light up this week,” she said. “For some of them, it’s probably the first time they’ve been back together since March. I think for them it’s fun to take supplies and build and create and they can’t do anything wrong. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, they can figure how to mix it up.”


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