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Tapping into student creativity

Modified: Friday, Feb 10th, 2017


Todd Guild/Register-Pajaronian Sam Delgadillo demonstrates his Foot Sling, which was designed to help people dependent on crutches hold up their injured foot.


WATSONVILLE — One day not too long ago, Jordan Torres was waiting for a hot bowl of soup to cool off so he could eat.

That moment was his inspiration for “Quick Cool,” a battery-operated, button-activated fan that clips to a spoon or fork and blows on hot food.

Jordan, a fifth-grader at Watsonville Charter School of the Arts, got the motor from a Lego set and raided his father’s toolbox for the button and wires. It took about two weeks to build, he said.

Jordan submitted the device for the school’s Invention Convention on Friday, joining more than 80 of his peers with ideas running from a football helmet to prevent concussions to a wiping system for dirty pet paws.

Fourth-grader Chase Victory said he has solved a problem familiar to many young people: the need to fidget when they should be paying attention.

“I wanted to help kids focus in class,” he said.

Chase’s “Fidget Widgit” features several small, colorful objects suspended in gel, all contained between sheets of plastic. Tactile and fun to play with, the Fidget Widgit has helped Chase focus. Better still, he said he would be happy to make one for those students who need to keep their hands busy.

Mia Voorhees, a fourth-grader, said she wanted to help her mother keep the cat off the table with her “Cat Stopper.”

Her mother’s tactics, she said, include banging pots and pans and yelling.

Driven by a motion detector, the device was designed to make a noise when pesky felines jump on tables. To add to its household appeal, Mia’s device is attached to a decorative box full of seashells.

Sam Delgadillo’s invention – a foot sling for people on crutches – came from personal experience. He said he was forced to use crutches after stepping on a needle three months ago, and knew how hard it can be to hold up one’s foot for long periods of time.

Hennessy Marquez geared her invention toward a social issue. The “Sleep Cart” is a portable storage container for possessions, which in a pinch can be used as a shelter.

“I wouldn’t want to be homeless,” she said.

The event is part of the Santa Cruz-based California Invention Convention, which aims to bring invention into the classroom.

Director Brenda Payne said the convention is a way to tap into the creativeness of young people by asking them to find and solve a problem that affects them.

“The idea for me is that, in 20 years, we can’t guess what problems they will face,” Payne said. “We have to give them the skills to solve those problems.”

The event kicked off last year at Pacific Elementary in Davenport, with 20 fifth- and sixth-graders. Four of these went to the 2016 National Invention Convention in Washington DC.

More than 20 schools in Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties are now participating in the program.

The first state Invention Convention is planned for the spring in San Jose. 

California Invention Convention is an affiliate of the nonprofit STEMIE Coalition, which combines science, technology, engineering and math with invention and entrepreneurship.

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For information, visit cainventionconvention.org.

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