By Brooklyn Draisey
Child inventors had the opportunity to present their unique works and compete for a spot in a national convention on Monday.
In the Coralville Marriot, groups of families moved through aisles of boards with students describing their original inventions. Diagrams and scale models explained finer points of designs, and the young creators spoke passionately about the inspiration behind their pieces and how they would help the world.
The Invent Iowa State Invention Convention brought in around 200 students in third through eighth grade to present their inventions and vie for a spot in the National Invention Convention in Dearborn, Michigan. The convention was hosted by the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development through the University of Iowa College of Education.
Belin-Blank Center Director Susan Assouline said the center is for talented and gifted student education. It has many programs geared toward finding gifted youngsters, but this one is the oldest, predating the 30-year-old center.
“We work all day every day, and we do a lot to make sure the infrastructure is there to support what they’re doing,” Assouline said.
Students applied for the convention through their school or as individuals. Many schools have mini conventions or science fairs in which students can present their work, then they can be nominated by a teacher. The Belin-Blank Center then looked at each applicant and decided which ones would be invited to participate in the state convention, Assouline said.
“The adjudication process is designed to find those inventions that will have a pretty good chance at the national level,” she said.
Belin-Blank Center Administrator of Instruction Ashlee Van Fleet said all the students get rewarded for making it to the convention, but only one team from the third- through fifth-grade and sixth through eighth divisions would make it to the national convention. Third- and second-place winners received $50 and $75 Amazon gift cards, respectively.
“It captures a niche group of students who are creative and inventive who want to bring their projects to a state convention that they might not normally have access to,” Van Fleet said.
Eighth-graders Quinton Kimrey and Dustin Barker came in first place for their division with their Pickup Truck Rear Window Washing System, which Kimrey said he wasn’t expecting.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “I didn’t think it was going to win; I didn’t even think it was a possibility.”
The idea came to the boys when Dustin was driving his truck and found that he couldn’t see out his rear window. Kimrey said it’s especially important for truck owners to be able to see out the back because an uneven load could lead to the suspension and tires being damaged.
Using Dustin’s truck and window cleaners from a junkyard, they rigged up a prototype. One worry Kimrey said they dispelled is that the cleaner will collect on the window or in the bed of the truck, but the ethanol in the cleaning product dries quickly, and any excess liquid drains through a gap in the bed.
Assouline noted that most of the inventions were thought up to help other people, and the recognition by the center means a lot to more than just the kids.
“When you get to see their faces and the families … you know what it means to them to have their kids be recognized; it makes a difference,” she said.