Conservation, physics, electronics, computer coding and simple machines were some of the topics local students learned about in an annual camp at Creekside Elementary School this month.

At Camp Invention in Franklin, first- through sixth-grade students focused on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM lessons while also exploring solutions to real-life problems in these areas.

The students played with solar-powered “crickobots,” cricket robot machines, built bug-sized trampolines, seesaws and tire swings and used a 3-D printer.

“Everything they learn about in the camp is applicable (to real life),” said Stephanie Deeter, Creekside school counselor and director of Camp Invention.

Story continues below gallery

Students worked on creating life rafts that would float and carry crickets across a body of water. In another classroom, campers were tasked with making an uninhabited island livable by creating models of water slides, utilities, infrastructure and transportation services. Their goal was to convince the island’s owners to let them buy the island.

Children hurried back and forth between the school’s supply room filled with recyclables — plastic gallon milk jugs, discarded plastic boxes, paper towel cardboard holders and other items — and their classrooms to build their tools and inventions.

“You can just see the excitement,” Deeter said.

Needham Elementary School second-graders Jensen Devenport and Addison Holman were working with their team to make a boogie board for a cricket to safety cross a pond. Their contraption utilized cardboard paper towel holders, duct tape, a plastic box lid and other recyclables.

In a neighboring classroom, camp volunteer Michaela Moore, 19, a sophomore at Anderson University, was helping two third-graders with their water slide invention made out of recycled items.

In a test of the tubing, the team discovered that it needed reinforcing. Moore asked the students what they could do to improve on the structure, and they went to work reinforcing the slide so that water would get through it.

Students got to learn about topics as diverse as demolition, gemstones, conservation, food science and simple machines — including making a pulley for a treehouse.

Hands-on learning makes lessons that would otherwise be boring more meaningful to the students, reducing the summer brain-drain while inspiring them to keep learning after the week is over, Deeter said.

Students were finding they could solve many different types of problems.

“We came up with ideas of how we can solve a problem or make something better,” said Evelyn Kiefer, a sixth-grader at Shelbyville Middle School.

“My problem was if you’re laying on your bed with your iPad trying to hold it up, it hurts.”

To solve the problem, she utilized a neck pillow and then made a contraption to hang the iPad over the user’s head, thus preventing neck and arm strain.

Anna Herkamp is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2712.