Lane School Invention Convention Showcased Design, Creativity, and Teamwork

June 16, 2023
The Lane School Invention Convention took place on Thursday outside in the bus loop. Staff Photo.

For a few weeks at the end of the school year, Grade Five students have the opportunity to incorporate the engineering and design process practiced throughout their three years at the Lane Elementary School, along with literacy and presentation skills, group collaboration, project management, and creativity into one project: The Invention Convention. 

According to Keith Kinney, Lane School Assistant Principal and Science Coordinator, in a short pump-up speech to students in the school bus loop on Thursday morning, standing in groups with their presentation boards and inventions put together during class time over the previous week, this “culminating project” is a time to “celebrate” their work. 

The Invention Convention is the finale of the Engineering is Elementary (EiE) program. EiE is a program designed by the Boston Museum of Science that encourages hands-on learning, “real world” problem-solving, engineering, and design while covering topics in physics, earth systems, technology, and different branches of engineering. The program is integrated into the curriculum for all three years at Lane School. 

When it comes time for the Invention Convention, students, working generally in groups of two to three, come up with a project of their choosing and practice applying the EiE skills and concepts. 

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Kinney explained, “Students are encouraged to think of something that they can invent to make a ‘problem’ better or they can use a current design that exists and make it better.”  

Lane School Science Coordinator Keith Kinney explained kids can choose any engineering and design problem to work on for the Invention Convention. Staff Photo.

Students Aayaan and Conor explained that once their group formed, they brainstormed ideas for projects. One idea tossed around had to do with rebounding basketball shots before they settled on the idea of a motor-controlled page turner for readers.

Kinney said the projects are kid-driven. “There really are no limits to what they can choose.” 

Taryn Curro, one of the Grade 5 teachers said through the years “teachers have gotten better and better about relinquishing control as the kids have taught the teachers that they can build, create, and solve problems on their own.” That includes allowing students to use tools to construct their inventions (drills, hammers, box cutters, paint, hot glue guns, and more). Materials are brought in from home, but almost all of the construction takes place over a couple of days in Lane classrooms. 

Curro explained that the Invention Convention “is really about the process.” Even if the end result doesn’t work, the kids have learned about brainstorming, teamwork, design, testing, writing about and presenting their work. 

Thursday morning, tables were rolled out of the cafeteria to the bus loop. The students in two waves brought trifold presentation boards organized partly as a scientific design process (explaining the problem, the initial vision, original design sketch, materials used, and improvements made), and part as a commercial sales pitch (the name, group name, target audience, and sometimes a slogan and sparkle added), and set up four projects to a table. 

Families, visitors, and classmates walked around from presentation to presentation, listening and asking questions about the design and process.  

Kids talked about how their initial designs didn’t work, they adjust to the design they had on hand, or they needed to experiment with a few solutions before moving forward – lime juice worked better than lemon juice for erasing markers for one team, magnets replaced Crocs Jibbitz for keeping long shoelaces from making trouble for athletes in Daniel and Nathan’s project. 

Kids talked about how much fun (like testing out “a plate that goes around your head so you can eat hands free” while playing video games) and sometimes challenging (“frustrating” was the word used when things went wrong) the design process was and wished they had longer to spend on projects (like Bautista and Jonathan’s straw that dispensed sugar). Many called their present design a “prototype” and said they might use a different material or construction process if they were to try again (Nathan and Janelle would upgrade their cat shelf from cardboard to wood).

Some kids had a rehearsed presentation and one had a jingle and dance number about their portable pillow bracelet. 

Some teams showed off their background research knowledge – cats have the ability to dream, washing dishes can use up to two gallons of water per minute, and it’s estimated up to some number- that wasn’t precisely remembered when put on the spot- of dogs per year die from tick-related diseases. 

Kinney called this year’s program a success. “It is amazing to see the high levels of positive interactions, peer respect, and group collaboration when our students are working on their projects.”

And what else did the kids make? 

Many of the student projects were based on the favorite things of preteens. There were lollipop holders and lollipop savers, a snack feeder for when hands are busy playing video games, sports-related inventions, a container for bracelet-making supplies, edible cutlery, and more than one portable pillow for napping. 

There were solutions to school problems: desk organizers, pencil holders, an invention to keep Chromebooks from falling on the floor, a few different ways to make school desks more comfortable to stay sitting at, and improvements on transporting musical instruments to school. 

The young entrepreneurs developed items for pets – dog food dispensers, lights for dogs, a tick brush/repellent, and a dog poop scooper. Nathan and Janelle’s cat shelf was designed to keep cats off the important parts of the shelf while entertaining and distracting a cat with things cats like on other parts of the structure.

The Freedom Count Down was developed because “every student deserves to know how many days till school is over.” Staff Photo.

Student engineers had many improvement ideas for cleaning implements. There was a Broop (double sided broom/mop), a surprising amount of devices to clean up or prevent crumbs from spreading in different scenarios, efficient window washers, a cup washer, a device to keep watermelon juice from dripping down the eater’s arms, a solvent to remove slime from fabric, and another solvent to remove marker from paper.

There was a toe protector, heel protector, and the aforementioned shoelace protectors.

And many others, but perhaps most relevant to the waning days of the school year: “The Freedom Count Down.” Artistically decorated (primarily sea creature themed) laminated cards with an attached dry-erase marker that allows the user to mark down the number of days remaining and adjust it as time goes on. The inspiration was that “every student deserves to know how many days till school is over.” 

Students, in case you couldn’t get your hands on a Freedom Count Down, there are two days left of school. Bedford Public Schools closes for the academic year on Wednesday. Happy summer vacation!

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