The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

January 25, 2014

Inventing for the future

By Amy Kent Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — Unfavorable weather put a small damper on the annual Camanche Elementary School Invention Convention, but with kids as determined as Sheryl Kennedy's third and fourth graders, the show had to go on.

The event only experienced postponement for one day because of below-zero temperatures that shut down all area schools Thursday, but with school back in session Friday, the invention convention was back on schedule.

Although the delay did cause a slight inconvenience for the judging portion of the convention, Kennedy was still able to round up a group of judges to participate on the short turnaround.

"We had about four or five that couldn't make it on such short notice, but I was able to contact a few that were able to rearrange their schedules," Kennedy said.

Each judge, handpicked by Kennedy, offered the young inventors a different perspective on their products and offered possible markets they could showcase their products.

Long-time judge Maggie Stafford took a liking to the Dog Feeder 1000, a self-feeding canine carrier, because of her dog-friendly business, Buddy Gourmet in Clinton.

"You see some of this stuff and go, 'Why didn't I think of that,' or why isn't that on the shelves yet," Stafford said. "This (event) really gives kids who are out-of-the-box thinkers a chance to showcase their creativity."

Along with the practical, convenient products, there were a few inventions that hit a little closer to the heart, one of which, the Port Shirt, gained a lot of attention from the judges.

Chealsa Andersen's alternative to hospital gowns for patients undergoing cancer treatment, was one of the top inventions of the day on Friday.

Camanche School Board member and featured judge Dan Srp favored the Port Shirt and expressed his appreciation for the unfiltered minds of a fourth grader.

"They come up with different solutions that may not be practical to the rest of us," Srp said. "(And) they're trying to solve a problem that is of personal nature. They're doing anything they can to try to help someone they love."

But Friday's products weren't all designed to solve a difficult or inconvenient problem; some were just created to entertain people, or poultry using them — like the Backyard Poultry Playground.

Taken from the same design pattern as an everyday cat play tower, Gavin Sharp altered it slightly to make it suitable for his family's brood of chickens.

The poultry playground offered an entertaining escape for Sharp's chickens, which eventually produced more eggs, and caught the eye of judge Chris Kennedy during the convention.

"I'm really impressed. The creativity in kids this age is outstanding," Chris said. "These kids are tomorrow's leaders; who's to say they can't solve tomorrow's problems."

And the masterminds behind Friday's inventions weren't worried about tomorrow's problems; they were just worried about standing up in front of the judges to display their inventions.

The group of fourth graders expressed nervousness in front of the judges, but were excited to display weeks worth of work to the well-established judges.

"All of my kids are excited when they leave here," Kennedy said. "It doesn't matter what the judges say, they are just so happy to show what they've made."

The kids will have another opportunity to present their inventions on Thursday, but this time they can leave the stress of judging behind as friends and family appreciate the products they've created.