14 March 2012

Invent Idaho

It all started as part of a class assignment. Everybody in Jessica's 3rd-4th grade class had to make an invention to enter into the school's Invent Idaho competition. Though the children did some work on their invention journals in class, the bulk of the work was to be done at home under parent supervision. Now, don't get me wrong, I love to see my children create. I love for them to work on things at home. I just either want it to be stuff they can do by themselves or stuff I want to teach them. I am under the firm belief that if the children are doing a school project, the parts they bring home should be the parts they don't need adult help with. I want to teach my kids independence, and to me, a big part of that is allowing them to do things alone. I have a big problem with school projects that require a hovering parent. So, I wasn't too thrilled that for some reason, I was expected to help my daughter with her school project.

Jessica's idea was to build a device to clean chicken poop from the backyard. She calls it the Chicken Poo Be Gone. It is a spray nozzle attached to a scoop shovel. I encouraged her to work on it alone, and to her credit, she did a great deal, outlining the idea process in her Invention Journal, making a display board, and finally, making a model. The only thing I really helped with was building the actual working model. We went to the store to buy parts-- Walmart for a child size snow shovel and Home Depot for the spray nozzle parts. For the competition, all the parts had to add up to less than $20. Jessica really tried to put everything together. I encouraged her to try each part of building it. She tried to cut the snow shovel shorter, but wasn't strong enough, so I did it, and moved the handle down, and cut the pipe. She put plumber's tape on all the threads and glued the pipe together. Together, we built the Chicken Poo Be Gone.

Jessica won an award at the school competition, so that qualified her to go to the Regional Competition where she won second place in the category of working models 3rd&4th grades. Winning that award qualified her to enter the state competition. Jessica and I caught a ride with some of her classmates and traveled the 6 hour drive to beautiful Moscow, Idaho. Don't you just love the rolling hills?

Here she is posing in front of her display just after she set it up.

We walked around the campus at the University of Idaho, visiting the arboretum, and admiring the architecture and landscaping.

Saturday was the competition. Jessica stood by her invention and was interviewed first by a local newspaperman, then Senator John Goedde, and finally the MC of the event, a local radio-show host (sorry, I didn't catch the names of the media guys). Her she is being interviewed on mic:

One final picture. Jessica didn't win anything at the state competition, but it was fun just being part of the event. Also, maybe I shouldn't be so reticent to help my kids with projects, it did turn out to be an experience.