The Connecticut Invention Convention (CIC) is one of the
State’s enduring and quiet educational treasures: an experience that enlightens
and delights students, educators and parents alike. Now entering its
30th year, the program targets grade 1-8 children because this period is
rich with opportunity; it’s a time when young minds are beginning to dance with
dreams of the future. With the aim of exciting children about the process
of discovery, learning and problem solving, the CIC program has been embraced by
130 schools across
On April 28th, Gampel Pavilion at the UConn Storrs campus teemed with energy and enthusiasm as 650 young inventors, their teachers and parents came to campus to unveil – before teams of evaluators – the inventions they conceptualized, documented, reported on and built. These were the students selected at school competitions to represent their schools and peers. The 29thCIC event was a grand affair that filled not only the floor of UConn’s basketball theater with tabletop displays but also much of the stadium seating with proud families.
Schools that participate in the CIC program begin to prep the student population the day
after the statewide convention, according to Carolyn Wheeler, a science and
computer teacher at
“The kids love it. They love to apply their creativity, come up with ideas and develop them.” Ms. Wheeler said that although the population of her school has declined overall, participation in CIC has continued to rise each year. During the 2003-04 school year, she said, just 26 children participated in the Invention Convention at Lebanon Elementary; this school year, 110 students – nearly 35 percent of the student body – participated. Ms. Wheeler remarked that interest rose steeply after 2008, when one of the school’s students was featured on The Ellen [DeGeneres] Show. It’s not just interest that rose, she said: the quality of the student inventions and presentations also improved across those eight years.
Though students don’t begin their projects officially until January, throughout the year Ms. Wheeler reminds her students of the invention convention and encourages them to think ahead, to do some detective work around home or in their daily lives to see problems that might need a solution. She sends parents the details of the program and keeps them regularly updated about deadlines, idea generation, and other details via email. “A key to our success has been our strong email communication with parents, because the children actually do all the work at home,” she said.
To help the children better understand what an invention is,
Ms. Wheeler brings in props, such as kitchen implements she finds in grocery
store aisles, and asks the students what problem the implement solves and to
explain the item’s features. Ms. Wheeler notes that all
Building excitement for this special program is crucial, she believes, to making STEM subjects attractive. So, she invites not just student inventors and their families to the school convention but also members of the media, state legislators, members of the town council and Selectmen.
This year, 13 students from Lebanon Elementary participated in the statewide convention. She said that six of the children received a total of eight awards for their inventions. She was particularly pleased to see that her efforts to entice more female students to participate have been rewarded: more than half of the CIC participants from Lebanon Elementary were girls. Ms. Wheeler commented that for the first time, student inventors were asked to complete a survey. Of the 62 students from her school who were surveyed, she said, 77 percent expressed positive attitudes toward science, with 19 percent indicating that “science excites me” and over 60 percent indicating that they “would be happy to be a scientist.” It’s little wonder that Ms. Wheeler has been nominated for the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
The Invention Convention is a magnet for dedicated teachers. The 2012 statewide CIC featured speaker Rachael Manzer, a STEM coach at
Ms. Manzer reminisced about the moment when she first
formulated her dream to go into outer space. “When I was your age, going to
Dreaming is what inspires invention, she suggested, and to reinforce this important link, she asked the audience to remember the word “dream” as an acronym in which D is for dedication, R is for risk taking, E is for education, A is for attitude, and M stands for motivation. Ms. Manzer left the young inventors with words to ponder: “We are creating tomorrow by whatever we are dreaming today.”
The 2012 CIC featured an amazing array of inventions, from
Community School fifth grader Ryan Swiski’s “Rockin Convertible,” a rocking
chair retrofitted with adjustable legs that can be folded back to allow the
rocker to rock, to Lee Kellogg School fifth grader Sean Caiati’s “Laser
Re-sight,” featuring a built-in laser and grid mounted on the scope for those
times when the telescope gets bumped accidently. Deklin Casey of
Operating on Love and Money
The CIC Board – a dedicated all-volunteer team of educators, industry professionals and policy makers – relies each year upon a complex network of sponsors, donors, committed teachers and judges to keep the convention vibrant. The UConn School of Engineering hosts and co-sponsors the event, and Marty Wood, assistant dean for undergraduate education, serves as CIC vice president. Associate professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering Ramesh Malla also serves on the Board.
The ConnecticutInventionConvention is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit program underwritten by grants and in-kind support from community, educational institutions, businesses and charitable organizations, including the UConn School of Engineering, Connecticut Light & Power, GE ENERGY Industrial Solutions, Pitney Bowes Inc., Stanley Black & Decker, United Technologies Corp., Boehringer-Ingelheim Cares Foundation, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cantor Colburn LLP, Comcast, ESPN, Lincoln Financial Foundation, Microsoft, Petit Family Foundation, the P&G Fund of Vteams, Inc., Whole Foods Market, Bank of America Foundation, CT Space Grant College Consortium, Dominion Nuclear Connecticut, General Dynamics – Electric Boat, the Institute of Materials Science at UConn and the Liberty Bank Foundation
For more information about the Connecticut Invention Convention, to volunteer or to provide sponsorship, please visitwww.ctinventionconvention.org .
Published: July 18th, 2012