Plum students take on engineering challenges in Camp Invention

| Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Kelly Haupt expected about 35 children to register for Camp Invention during its first year in the Plum School District.

Haupt, a first-grade teacher at Holiday Park Elementary School, got a pleasant surprise when more than twice the expected number of elementary students signed up for camp at Pivik Elementary School.

“We got 78 (children),” said Haupt who directed Camp Invention last week “We spiked tremendously.”

The nationally recognized camp is an enrichment program that emphasizes STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and is backed by the Inventors Hall of Fame, according to the Camp Invention website.

There was no cost to the district to host the program.

The children spent the week rotating through four modules where they worked on experiments and hands-on engineering challenges such as creating a personalized motor-powered vehicle and taking apart electronic devices such as alarm clocks and karaoke machines to build a pinball machine.

“They loved it,” Haupt said. “The consensus was that was the best part (of the program).”

Jenielle Doty, whose two daughters participated in Camp Invention, was impressed with the children's curiosity and creativity.

“I am amazed what they can do,” Doty said. “They really think outside the box.”

Ryan Regan, 9, who will be fourth-grader at Holiday Park Elementary, said he wasn't sold on Camp Invention when his parents suggested it.

“After the first day, I thought it was really fun,” Regan said. “I am enjoying building the pinball machine.”

Ellie Tongel, who is entering fifth-grade at Pivik Elementary, was happy for camp after a couple of weeks of summer vacation.

“Science is my favorite subject,” said Tongel, 10. “I love creating things. It lets my mind flow.”

Victoria Cecchetti, 9, who will be in fourth-grade at Holiday Park Elementary, enjoyed taking apart electronics to make a pinball machine.

“It is interesting to take apart stuff,” Cecchetti said. “You don't know what's inside.”

Julia Vargo, 10, who is entering sixth-grade at Holiday Park Elementary, said she doesn't typically enjoy getting up early, but the Camp Invention experience makes the early start worth it.

“I like building,” Vargo said.

Noah Coulson, 16, who will be a junior at Plum High School, volunteered at the camp.

“I like science and this kind of stuff and working with kids,” Coulson said.

Haupt said she wants to bring the program back next year.

“It's all cooperative learning — taking an idea and realizing one brain is good and two brains are better,” Haupt said.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-871-2367 or

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