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Headwaters Science Center: Kids get creative with inventor's camp

One might wonder how useful a little bit of duct tape and some plastic tubing could really be to make a new creation, but at Camp Invention those materials will go a long way.

Camp Invention is a hands-on creation camp for kids, and is sponsored by the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation. The weeklong summer camp took place at the Headwaters Science Center last week.

"[The camp] is focused on inventing and engineering," said Camp Invention Director Chris Tolman. "The underlying themes within it are problem solving, teamwork, trying to think outside the box, being creative and finding new uses for common things."

Camp Invention happens all across the country and kids entering first through sixth grade are eligible to sign up for the camp. Most of the kids in the camp were from the Beltrami area, but sometimes campers will bring a family member from out of town to join.

"This type of camp often attracts a lot of independent thinkers so it can be a challenge to accept other ideas, so it's good to experience and learn how to cooperate with other ideas, and not to criticize," Tolman said.

The campers go through the week participating in five different sessions taught by local instructors, with themes like Comic Book Science and the Viking Treasure Trek.

Campers also work on a project starting at the beginning of the week called, I Can Invent, which takes them through the entire week breaking down, and rebuilding a new creation.

Campers are given a list of recycled and used materials to bring to the camp, along with one appliance that doesn't work, like an old VHS player or a computer tower.

Grades 1-3 work on taking the appliance apart and making something completely new, while grades 4-6 take the appliance apart and work to create a "Rube Goldberg," or a complex machine that performs a simple task.

The older campers' task during the week has been to crack a plastic egg with their newly created machine that performs 4-5 steps before it cracks the egg.

"Some kids just love taking things apart. Just being able to dismantle something and not get in trouble for it," Tolman said.

Besides participating in the sessions, each day was themed with something unique to get the kids thinking creatively, like Wacky Clothes Day and Crazy Hair Day.

For example, campers and counselors dressed with multiple layers of clothes on or mismatched socks.

"Even with the outfits, you're teaching kids how to brainstorm, just to come up with the craziest, wackiest idea you can think of because that's were some of the brilliant ideas come from," Tolman said. "You're getting kids to realize that somebody else came up with a wacky idea that everybody else said wouldn't work."

The campers were spread out throughout the Science Center building, and downstairs campers were wrapping black, garbage bags around each other and getting ready for another activity - Land Sled X-Treme.

"We're a marching group!" James Owens, one of the camp instructors, called out to get the campers moving.

Box sleds were being crafted out of cardboard and almost ready to be tested out at the Library Park hill.

"It's a great way to spend a week of your summer," said 9-year-old camper, Jacob Rudnick of Bemidji.

For more information on Camp Invention, visit