The best week of their lives |

The best week of their lives

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Joel Hines, 10, explains the robot he's creating Wednesday at Camp Invention at Bordewich-Bray Elementary School. Hines plans to put a remote-control car at the base of the robot and sneak it into his brother's room in the middle of night - provided his parents don't read this to his brother. Wednesday was crazy-hair day at the weeklong camp.

For 10-year-old Joel Hines, Camp Invention became even more attractive when he discovered he’d have the chance to plan a sneak attack on his 8-year-old brother.

Tinkering with that tour de force Wednesday morning at Bordewich-Bray Elementary School, Joel and his friend Christian Greenwich, 9, tried to get the left arm of a robot to stay on with tape.

The robot, which should be done by the end of camp, remains nameless, but the victim isn’t: Eric.

Joel plans to put a remote control car at the base of the robot, which has a chest and head made of cardboard boxes and arms of PVC pipe and toilet paper rolls, and drive it into his brother’s room late at night.

“I don’t think he’ll like it too much,” he said. “He’ll probably run out screaming.”

Joel’s robot was just one of many contraptions being assembled from old parts and appliances at the camp, sponsored by the U.S. Patent Office and the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation. Other elementary students worked away on: a miniature television; a remote control device to follow dad around in the shed at night and light his way; a bouncy airplane seat to minimize turbulence; and a cleaning robot, the last devised by Michael Patrick.

“It’s going to be multipurpose,” the 10-year-old explained of his invention while unscrewing parts from an old printer and an old VCR. “It’s going to clean up dog poop in the backyard, but also clean up my room.”

It is the first time Camp Invention has been offered in the Carson City School District. Bordewich-Bray Vice Principal Casey Gilles went to training earlier this year after parents, whose children attended camps in Reno and Lake Tahoe, asked her about the program.

“They send us the materials, so it’s ‘Today you do this’ and ‘Tomorrow you do that,'” she said. “It’s a program so that every day the teachers know what to do. There’s no books, no writing, it’s all hands on.”

Seventy-six children from Carson City signed up, not just from public schools, but from private ones as well, like St. Teresa of Avila and Bethlehem Lutheran, homeschoolers also registered for the programs that cost between $100 and $200 depending on the date of sign-up.

“The district has nothing to do with funding,” Gilles said. “We promoted it, but the parents had to send in the money to Camp Invention.”

Students attend four classes between 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.: invention from old appliances; roller-coaster design; Escape from Planet Zak; and strap-an-egg-into-a-car-and-try-not-to-smash-it. At the end of the week, parents can visit and see what’s been invented.

“When I grow up I want to be a meteorologist and track weather,” said 10-year-old Sam Bruketta. “I want to invent a thing that will help find hurricanes – and tsunamis.”

Camp Invention enrollment is the third largest in the state. Only Reno and Las Vegas have more students. Bordewich-Bray could have taken up to 110; Gilles expected about 60.

Students are divided into groups by age. They study the six simple machines, the lever, wheel and axle, pulley, inclined plane, wedge, and screw, taught by Teacher Candi Ruf.

The other three teachers, all from Bordewich-Bray, are Amy Crittenden, Kinkade DeJoseph and Mimi Loflin. Gilles is the coordinator. District students Megan Anderson, Kristen Charles, Leticia Chavez and Kendra Jones are assisting.

“I think it’s going wonderfully,” Gilles said. “I’ve had positive remarks from parents. The teachers – the first words out of their mouths the first day was ‘This is so much fun.’ One of the students said yesterday ‘This is the best day I’ve had at school in my life.'”

• Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at or 881-1219.