Students display work at ‘Invention Convention’

HARLINGEN — Budding geniuses.

They were everywhere Thursday night, young students from St. Paul Academy displaying their inventions at the “Invention Convention.” The students in grades fifth through eighth had spent four weeks developing their projects. They presented them in the school’s gym at the Academy at 1920 E. Washington Ave. with a youthful and unrestrained pride.

“It was a great exciting night,” said science teacher Jason Kuiper who’d made the assignment.

A total of 43 students had been asked to address real-world problems with their inventions. The broad diversity of projects revealed the creative individuality of each student. One young inventor had designed a special cubicle for people with learning disabilities so they can focus better on their tasks. Another student developed a special table for changing diapers. It was designed so the caregiver can carry it easily and inconspicuously in public. Still another developed a toothbrush with the toothpaste built in.

Kuiper said the main purpose of the assignment was to challenge the students to be creative. Even if they didn’t solve world problems, each project presented challenges they had to overcome. They did plenty of problem-solving, a key skill taught in today’s public schools and vital in the work place.

The ingenuity displayed by the projects impressed Principal Jim House.

“They came up with these inventions on their own,” he said. “The projects themselves were pretty unique. As far as trying to develop something in the future that they could sell, I wouldn’t be surprised.”

This type of unrestrained creativity, reserved solely in the heart of youth, released the young inventors from the concept of impossibility. This is a concept that creeps in with age; only rarely are creators of anything able to avoid the entrapments of limitation.

The students were further recognized for their work by the turnout of not only family members but people from the community. Kuiper estimated about 150 people came to see what the students had done. Such a turnout validated the importance of the students’ endeavors.

The originality of the projects show promise for the future, Kuiper said. He believes some had the potential later in life to make real contributions to humanity through their inventive talents.

“Absolutely,” he declared. “I would definitely say the kids show promise.”

Like true scientists, they had to record the processes of their inventions in a journal, Kuiper said.

They recorded each step. They made note of the challenges of those inventions and how they overcame them; another important aspect was problems they encountered that couldn’t be solved. They detailed these problems and how they circumvented the problem with a different approach, somewhat like Thomas Edison trying one material after another until one of his workers discovered tungsten could be used in a light bulb.

Perhaps endeavors such as this can sometimes trigger new thought processes in the young inventor. He or she arrives at some greater understanding never before considered. This new arrival could be the student’s own light bulb, illuminating some hidden talent primed for discovery, exploration and invention.