connecticut invention convention

Lessons Learned on Invention Convention

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Students at the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering have competed in Invention Convention for the past two years (the academy’s entire existence), so it’s useful to reflect on what went well and what could be improved. Invention Convention is an outstanding STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) competition where each student designs and builds an invention, either a model or a prototype, and produces a trifold display, then presents these products to a panel of judges. We participated in Connecticut Invention Convention (CIC) both years, and this year we had four students make it to the national competition, National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo (NICEE).

CIC begins with a local competition that a teacher or advisor sets up in the school or community–I set up one in our academy facility, and I required all of my students to compete and invited other teachers to let their students compete. I followed the CIC guidance, which CIC provides through excellent one-day training sessions with loads of downloadable materials. We set up the area similar to the way the state and national competitions are run with students in “judging circles” of about six students each. CIC provides a process for students to follow to design and build their invention, but I used a similar NASA engineering design process that our academy uses. To get judges for the local competition, I recruited volunteers from two aerospace firms in our town, GKN Aerospace and PCX Aerostructures. CIC recommends using outside, impartial judges, vs. teachers or parents, and I found this to be excellent advice. The first year I did all this, I gave my students some informal time to present their inventions to one another before the competition. Their feedback after the competition was that they had some difficulty knowing what to say to the judges. Therefore, this year I gave my students a few days to practice presenting. We started with a day where we brainstormed as a class on what to say, then we took those items and created a 2-minute pitch that every student practiced and gave to the class. In feedback after this year’s competition, many students felt the pitch was helpful, including those that competed all the way up to NICEE.

Our experience at each level of Invention Convention this year was very positive. I have posted previously on our local Newington Invention Convention, on the Central Regional CIC, and and on the state CIC. In summary, this year we had about 60 students compete locally, of whom nine (15%) were allowed by CIC rules to advance to the regional competition–the nine top inventors picked by the judges. Of these nine, eight (89%) advanced from the regionals to the state competition (CIC). Of these eight state competitors, four (50%) advanced to the national competition (NICEE) and won major awards at CIC. These percentages are very high, well above average, and I attribute them to our continual focus on creative work and engineering design in the academy and on our preparation for Invention Convention following CIC guidance.

This year was the first time we sent students to NICEE. The competition was held at a small venue, the US Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, VA, and only one parent was allowed in with each student. I thought this was unfortunate, as I would have liked to attend. Next year’s competition at the Ford Museum in Michigan should allow for more people to attend. However, I followed the competition online, including the awards ceremony that was streamed live. My observations were that the NICEE criteria for awards were generally in line with those of CIC, but NICEE seemed to emphasize commercial potential of inventions over solving problems in various fields. Nevertheless, my four NICEE competitors told me afterwards that they felt they were well prepared for the competition. In the end at NICEE, one of the four students (25%), Olivia Mullings, was a runner up for the Innovation in Electronics award for her Temp Safe invention that helped save babies or pets locked in a hot car. Here are photos from my four students who competed at NICEE:

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Academy students Olivia, Shiven, Jasmine, and Alek prepare to compete in National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo (NICEE)

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I strongly recommend Invention Convention as one of the best STEM competitions your students can enter. While I like team STEM competitions and have coached several of them, I think that the solo competition in Invention Convention is also very beneficial since it gives every student a chance. If you are a STEM teacher in Connecticut and use the materials that CIC provides, you should find it is not difficult to coach your students or even to set up your own local competition.

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Four Academy Students Selected for National Invention Convention

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Four students from the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering will be going to the National Invention Convention/Entrepreneurship Expo (NICEE) in Alexandria, Virginia later this week. These students have won at each level of Invention Convention and earned a spot at the national competition. First they competed and won in our local Newington Invention Convention on March 16th, then they competed and won at the Central Regional Invention Convention on April 8th, then they competed and won at the Connecticut Invention Convention on April 29th. Statistically, the academy would have been lucky to have one student make the national competition, so to have four going is extraordinary. Over 17,000 students from Connecticut competed in Invention Convention this year, and about 100 of those will go to NICEE, or about 0.6%. We had all fifty academy students compete in our local Newington Invention Convention, and we have four students going to NICEE, or 8% of our original competitors – this means we had over ten times as many students make the nationals as the average school.

Here are our national competitors and the awards they got at the state-level Connecticut Invention Convention on April 29th:

7th grade Academy winners:
Jasmine Barber – Sno Away (rolling snow shovel that avoids back strain) – Recognized Inventor Award and Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair Award.

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Shiven Patel – Stop, Drop, and Spot (beacon to help find fire extinguisher in smokey room) – Recognized Inventor Award and Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering Award.

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8th grade Academy winners:
Alek Jorge – Smart Helm (fireman’s helmet with sensors and transmitter to alert incident commander if fireman is hurt or down) – Recognized Inventor Award, Connecticut Fire Marshals Fire Safety Award, and Angel Investors Forum/Connecticut Venture Group Young Entrepreneur Award (this award connects Alek with potential investors in his invention).

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Olivia Mullings – Temp Safe (alarm system if baby or pet is left in hot car) – Frank J. Link Family Award for Innovation in Technology Award, Boehringer Ingelheim Cares Foundation Life Sciences Award, United Technologies Corporation Moving the World Forward Award, and the McCormick, Paulding, and Huber Patent Award (this award was given last and highlighted as the top award which provides about $10,000 in legal services for a patent search and application).

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Ms. Garavel and I wish these students the best of luck at NICEE later this week!

Academy Students Win Top Awards at Connecticut Invention Convention

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On Saturday, April 29, 2017, Ms. Garavel and I cheered on seven Academy of Aerospace and Engineering students at the state-level Connecticut Invention Convention (CIC) at UCONN – Storrs in Gampel Pavilion. These seven students were the winners at the Central Regional CIC event on April 8th – four eighth graders, and three seventh graders. Inventors at CIC could win two types of awards: judges gave Recognized Inventor Awards to the best two inventors in every circle of eight or nine inventors, and various sponsors also gave awards. Two of our eighth graders and two of our seventh graders earned two or more awards today, and one eighth grader, Olivia Mullings, got four awards, including the top award at the very end – and all four of these students were selected to compete in the national competition in June — here are the details:

7th grade Academy winners:
Jasmine BarberSno Away (rolling snow shovel that avoids back strain) – Recognized Inventor Award and Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair Award.
Shiven PatelStop, Drop, and Spot (beacon to help find fire extinguisher in smokey room) – Recognized Inventor Award and Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering Award.

8th grade Academy winners:
Alek JorgeSmart Helm (fireman’s helmet with sensors and transmitter to alert incident commander if fireman is hurt or down) – Recognized Inventor Award, Connecticut Fire Marshals Fire Safety Award, and Angel Investors Forum/Connecticut Venture Group Young Entrepreneur Award (this award connects Alek with potential investors in his invention).
Olivia MullingsTemp Safe (alarm system if baby or pet is left in hot car) – Frank J. Link Family Award for Innovation in Technology Award, Boehringer Ingelheim Cares Foundation Life Sciences Award, United Technologies Corporation Moving the World Forward Award, and the McCormick, Paulding, and Huber Patent Award (this award was given last and highlighted as the top award which provides about $10,000 in legal services for a patent search and application).

Here are photos of the Academy students as they prepared to be judged:

 

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Here are photos from the awards ceremony and celebration afterwards:

Here are the statistics for this competition to put it all in perspective:

  • 17,000 students across Connecticut competed in local CIC competitions this year — we had 56 competitors at our local event in March (50 students from the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, and 6 from the STEM clubs in JWMS and MKMS) – so we made up about 0.3% of all Connecticut competitors.
  • The top 15% of inventors from the local competitions competed in one of five regional competitions this year — we had 9 competitors go the Central Regional CIC in early April (four 8th graders and four 7th graders from the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, and one student from JWMS STEM club). Volunteers from GKN Aerospace and PCX Aerostructures judged the inventors and picked the winners who advanced to regionals from our local CIC.
  • The top 40% of inventors from the regional events, 660 students total from 87 Connecticut school districts, went to the state CIC — we had 7 competitors (all four 8th graders, and three of the four 7th graders from the regional event) – so we advanced at more than double the average rate (100% of 8th graders advanced, and 75% of 7th graders advanced) and we made up about 1% of the competitors at the state event.
  • There were about 300 total awards given at the state CIC, so about one award for every two students – so it would have been reasonable for us to get about three awards, yet we got eleven awards, far above the average, including the top Angel Investor Award and the Patent Award.

I give all these statistics to show that today’s CIC results validated the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering as a strong STEM program where students are learning the concepts and skills sought by universities and industry. I recommend this program highly to any elementary or middle school STEM teacher for your students.

All four students will also be competing in the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo on June 1-3, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. 

Academy Students Advance to State Finals in Connecticut Invention Convention

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On Saturday, April 8th, eight students from Newington’s Academy of Aerospace and Engineering competed in the Central Regional Connecticut Invention Convention at Goodwin College in East Hartford. These eight students (four academy 7th graders and four academy 8th graders) were the top inventors from our school district Invention Convention competition on March 16th. Seven of the eight (all four 8th graders and three out of the four 7th graders) earned top scores to advance to the Connecticut Invention Convention state finals on April 29th. Ms. Garavel and I are proud of all eight students, as they all prepared and competed well at the Central Regional event. These results also show that the volunteers from GKN Aerospace and PCX Aerostructures who judged the inventors at our school district Invention Convention identified our strongest candidates, given that seven out of eight winners at our school district event will go on to the state finals. The state finalists’ names and their inventions are:

 

8th grade/Academy
Brandon Fiore – “Thermo Plate”
Tyler Frohock – “White Out Vest”
Alek Jorge – “Smart Helm”
Olivia Mullings – “Temp Safe”

7th grade/Academy
Jasmine Barber – “Sno-Away”
Shiven Patel – “Stop, Drop, and Spot”
Emmanuel Thomas – “Charger Clip”

Here are photos of these state finalists as they prepared to meet the judges on April 8th at the Central Regional Connecticut Invention Convention:

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Host an Invention Convention & Promote STEM

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On March 16, 2017, the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering hosted the Newington Invention Convention for all 50 academy students, plus six other students from the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) Clubs at both John Wallace Middle School and Martin Kellogg Middle School in Newington. This competition was the local event leading up to the state-level Connecticut Invention Convention, a nationally recognized STEM competition that challenges elementary and middle school students to design, build, and present an original invention. Students began working after winter break on their inventions, following an engineering design process to research, brainstorm, design, build and test inventions that solved problems in their lives. The students also had to build a presentation board and practice explaining their invention. At the competition, each student inventor was interviewed by a pair of judges who scored each invention using a rubric developed by Connecticut Invention Convention. In the end, the judges picked the top 15% (9 total students) who now get to compete at the Central Regional Invention Convention on April 8, 2017 at Goodwin College in East Hartford, along with hundreds of other local winners from our part of the state. The winners from the regional competitions will get to compete at the state-level event on April 29, 2017 at UCONN’s Gampel Pavilion. The winners of the Newington Invention Convention and the names of their inventions were as follows:

6th grade / STEM Club
Zachary White – “Insta Crack Cam”

7th grade/Academy
Jasmine Barber – “Sno-Away”
Shiven Patel – “Stop, Drop, and Spot”
Vidhisha Thakkar – “Baby Safe”
Emmanuel Thomas – “Charger Clip”

8th grade/Academy
Brandon Fiore – “Thermo Plate”
Tyler Frohock – “White Out Vest”
Alek Jorge – “Smart Helm”
Olivia Mullings – “Temp Safe”

Getting judges for a competition like this one can be difficult, as it is recommended not to use teachers or parents so that there is no perception of any favoritism toward one student or another. Fortunately for us, we have built a great partnership with two outstanding aerospace firms in our community, GKN Aerospace and PCX Aerostructures, both of whom provided judges for the Newington Invention Convention. GKN judges were Bruce Fiedorowicz, Tiedah Evans, Reggie Gay, Ewelina Maselek, and Jon Ford. PCX judges were Chris Aldrich, Gerry Zimmerman, Louisa Triggs, and Nate Knowles. They worked in pairs, and each pair judged around 15 student inventors in about one hour’s time. Finally, Bruce Fiedorowicz and Chris Aldrich helped pass out awards and said a few words at our closing ceremony. We congratulate all the inventors at this event!

 

Photos of 8th grade inventors from the Academy:

Photos of 7th grade inventors from the Academy:

Photos of STEM Club inventors:

Photos of the competition and closing ceremony:

NOTE: Most photos were taken by Kate Norton of Newington Public Schools (thank you!).

Encouraging Creative Tinkering in a Makerspace

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When I was hired to plan out the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering at John Wallace Middle School, one aspect I built in was a makerspace. According to Open Education Database, makerspaces are “DIY spaces where people can gather to create, invent, and learn” and “often have 3D printers, software, electronics, craft and hardware supplies and tools, and more.” It is more than a workshop. The ultimate makerspace can be an entrepreneurial incubator – a perfect example is the Tech Valley Center of Gravity in Troy, New York, which started as a humble makerspace in a basement and has mushroomed to fill a multi-story building housing a large makerspace, plus financial and legal advisors for new entrepreneurs and inventors. If you want to learn more about makerspaces and how to use them in school, I will be giving a workshop along with some of my students at the Tech2Learn conference on April 23rd at Quinnipiac University’s School of Education – this event will also have many other workshops to incorporate technology in the classroom.

For our middle school academy, the makerspace is a place where students can learn and practice various types of creative design. Examples include computer aided design (CAD) and 3D printing, wood working, arts and crafts, and basic reverse engineering, taking things apart to see how they work. Over the past several months since school started, I have given the students different design challenges and activities to learn all of these types of design. We are now focused on preparing for the Connecticut Invention Convention, and the makerspace is the perfect venue to design and build our inventions. I also have begun giving the students one day per week, “Free Fridays,” where they can design however and whatever they like. They have the freedom to tinker, build,  and experiment. To keep them somewhat focused, I only require that they set a goal and track their progress in meeting it. The students love this opportunity and have taken full advantage of it. The following photos give some idea of their activities:

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Reverse Engineering in Makerspace
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Brainstorming & Collaborating in Makerspace

Using CAD to 3D Print in the Makerspace:

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Woodworking in the Makerspace:

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