MOSCOW — Young inventors from across the state converged on the University of Idaho campus Friday and Saturday to showcase their creations and find out which students would qualify for Michigan’s National Invention Convention later this spring.
The weird and clever inventions — from “toilet chatter” to “human surge protector” and “sushi slicer” — have earned some of the students ribbons, science and robotics kits, Best in Show and High School Grand titles. Champion, two $1,000 scholarships to UI, and a spot at Nationals. Of the young inventors, 19 have been chosen to attend the National Invention Convention at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation from May 31 to June 3 in Dearborn, Michigan.
Invent Idaho State Director Beth Brubaker said students are the future of the country.
“Invent Idaho is a celebration of creativity,” Brubaker said. “What these young inventors have learned about the creative problem-solving process is what really matters most, because will we all become inventors? Well, we can hope so, but probably not. But will we all grow up to need to solve problems? Absoutely.”
Since 1989, Invent Idaho has challenged K-12 students to identify a problem and find a solution. Inventions are judged in categories such as Adaptations, Games and Gadgets, Jules Verne, Working Models, and Non-Working Models.
Inventions ranged from an app to help with household chores, to a remote recycling gadget that cleans up people’s trash, to a tampon that beeps if a parent leaves their child in the car seat. Other inventions included an automatic bed maker, a GPS bullet that tracks deer and elk after they have been shot, and a sidewalk sweeper that allows its user to tidy up the neighborhood while exercising at bike.
Daniel Gourley, a seventh grader at North Idaho STEM Charter Academy, said the inspiration for his invention came from his observation that many young people lack financial literacy.
“It’s taught in schools, but it doesn’t help enough,” he said. “Students don’t internalize that it’s super important; they think it’s just another class.
Without an understanding of personal finance and how to balance a budget, he says, young adults are ill-equipped for their future. To bridge this gap, Gourley created a financial learning tool called My Future Finance. It won an award in the Games and Gadgets category.
The game, designed for ages 12 to 18, asks players a series of questions to track their income, expenses and how much money they save.
“I did a beta test with people and it went really well,” Gourley said. “They liked it and had fun. It was challenging, which is one of my main things, but it was also very realistic and engaging.
Jenny Ford, business relations manager at Idaho Central Credit Union, said she hopes to continue sponsoring the invention program in the future.
“The skills Invent Idaho instills in our young people are invaluable,” Ford said. “A friend of mine here at the University of Idaho always tells me that life is a pitch; and if he’s right, then these youngsters certainly have a head start.