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Camp makes Canadian debut at Durham College

Twenty-four Grade 4 to 6 students from across Durham Region took part in the first Canadian iteration of Camp Invention, held at Durham College. (Photo courtesy of Durham College)

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Any inclination that summer isn’t a time for students to learn was proven wrong at Durham College recently.

The college hosted the first-ever Canadian offering of Camp Invention, a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) camp developed by the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Camp Invention commenced with a few sites in 1990, and is now offered to students across 1,800 school districts in all 50 U.S. states, according to Ashley Giordano, a curriculum writer with the NIHF.

With the program firmly established in the U.S., Giordano said it was a natural progression to bring Camp Invention north of the border.

“We were just looking to expand into Canada just knowing they are really big on innovation and focused on STEM as well,” Giordano says.

Durham College president Don Lovisa has a close connection with the NIHF, sitting on the organization’s Canadian board of directors, and the institute is very focused on innovation and STEM.

“Our mission statements seemed to match very well,” Giordano says.

Approximately 25 Grade 4 to 6 students, along with teachers and other educators, from both Durham District School Board and Durham Catholic District School Board, participated in the camp.

During the week of July 8 to 12, students dove deep into the world of STEM through four unique modules.

In Innovation Force, campers teamed up with superheroes based on 2019 NIHF inductees, to battle the supervillain Plagiarizer, who is out to steal the world’s greatest ideas.

Giordano says this module educates children about the importance of intellectual property and the patent system.

Jane Kennedy, a STEM and science facilitator for DDSB, served as director of the camp. She believes studying patents and trademarks is important for children, as it’s not something they will necessarily learn about in the traditional classroom setting.

“We don’t always talk about having an idea and seeing it all the way from beginning to end, and put to market,” Kennedy told The Oshawa Express. “I want kids to understand ideas are important, and who owns an idea is an important concept.”

Students also embarked on a “research adventure” through Deep Sea Mystery, where they search for fossils at sea, but find themselves stranded on an island. They are then challenged to invent-survival tools and underwater equipment.

Other modules saw campers managing their own farm to learn about the basics of business and exploring frequency, circuit boards, motors, and gears as they used tools to reverse engineer a remote-controlled robot.

At the end of the week, all these projects were brought together in a final event called “The Ring of Fire.”

Giordano says all these programs are based on the experiences of NIHF inductees.

“All our programs are influenced by our inductees,” she adds.

Besides teaching the campers important STEM skills, Giordano says Camp Invention gives them the confidence to take on new challenges, and not be afraid to fail in those challenges.

“It’s okay to fail, and you can always take that away as a learning experience. Sometimes the greatest discoveries come from failure,” she says. “A lot of our inductees say as long as [you are] learning, it’s not a failure.”

In attendance were U.S. Consul General Greg Stanford and Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter, as well as Science Teachers’ Association of Ontario executive director Amy Gorecki and president-elect Natalie Rudner. There are plans to bring Camp Invention back to Oshawa next year, and Kennedy would like to see it hosted at a DDSB-area school.