If you wonder when science becomes art you might enjoy seeing Young Inventors (YI’s) and Teen Inventors (TI’s) create all sorts of working vehicles and robots during the week of July 23rd at the Kimball Art Center, Park City, Utah. One big difference to school science is that “YI’s” and “TI’s” are encouraged to combine key materials, and components, in any way they want – there is no set goal other than to follow the workshop’s theme. In past workshops young inventors aged six to ten years of age, have invented some amazing contraptions such as a solar powered submarine, multiple types of battery powered land vehicles, rubber band powered dragsters, crawlers with friction based motors, flying machines, and even a transforming hat!
The idea of Young Inventors starts with choosing an invention theme. The theme is then broken down into key components that can be easily and safely combined in an almost infinite number of ways. Once vehicles are created “YI’s are encouraged to improve or transform them – to make them stronger, lighter, travel further, fly higher. Here are a few key component categories:
Young Inventor workshops are run by an inventor and a developer of interactive learning products for children, Roger Burrows. Roger is also the author of the, “Images,” and “Altair Design,” book series; these are books of geometrical designs that can be seen in an almost infinite number of ways. Some people see patterns of all sorts, some see people, plants, or animals, and others see complete scenes. The math is such that whatever is seen can be found again and again within the designs due to the math that they are based on. Helping Roger run the workshop was South Summit High School student, Malone Sheeran, a young scientist with an active interest in astrophysics. Malone’s experience, working with children through her community rolls in the Girl Scouts and with the Rotary’s “Interact Club,” helped the kids focus and overcome the challenges they were faced with.
Key Components for the “Vehicle” theme are: “Framework Materials;” “Connectors;” “Energy Sources;” “Motors,” “Power Transferors,” “Bearings,” and “Wheels.” An example of a creative combination is that of constructing a lightweight frame with coffee stirrers that are connected with pipe cleaners; then connecting the frame to wheels, or wings, and to an energy source, such as a solar cell. Then connecting the solar cell to a motor – where the motor can be connected to a propeller that transfers the power to move air.
To provide for as much creativity as possible lots of materials are provided into each category and these are made available in trays. Workshop sessions start with five minutes spent on looking at how to combine things – how to connect a motor, or attach a rubber band, how to connect sticks or straws with tape, nuts and bolts, …The “YI’s” are then set free to try out their first combinations. Sometimes they quickly succeed and sometimes they fail where a frame might fall apart, or be too heavy, or a vehicle might be underpowered and not fly, or it might sink. The workshop is full of successes and failures but eventually everyone creates vehicles that are unique and that work. Kids are natural inventors but they need materials that are safe and that they can easily and quickly combine.