The Bruce Pitman Center was filled to the brim with bright young minds Saturday, as the University of Idaho hosted Invent Idaho, a competition between young inventors from across the state.
“It really gives me hope for our future, as a planet, as a society,” said Invent Idaho co-founder Beth Brubaker. “The process is what we really encourage, because we want them to learn how to identify a problem, how to brainstorm numerous possible solutions and stick with it. To me, it’s education at its finest.”
Hundreds of students, ranging from first to ninth grade, gathered into the International Ballroom, armed with a myriad of inventions to present to a panel of judges.
Creations ranged from practical, such as a type of windmill designed to keep birds from hitting propellers, to innovative, such as a system that wirelessly transmits energy between different devices.
The event’s keynote speaker, Gray Bright, said the work done by Idaho students should inspire hope for future generations, citing his own work as a budding inventor. Bright, an Australian native who hosts the “Tomorrow Show,” said his own experiences growing up inventing with the help of his parents encouraged him to stay in the realm of science, even in the entertainment industry.
Bright announced the winners of each category, and congratulated all participants for their innovative spirit and thirst for knowledge.
“There’s no level to what you can invent. If you want to invent something huge, you can. If you want to invent something small, you can,” Bright said. “If you want to be a part of the space industry, you literally can. You can do anything, you can absolutely do anything.”
Of the winners, 10-year-old Lauren Stephens, took home a $1,000 scholarship to UI for her “Quick Fix” bandage dispenser. The device, much like a tape dispenser, efficiently stores bandages, keeping them sterile and easily accessible.
“I need Band-Aids a lot, to be honest, and we never have Band-Aids around. They’re in high cabinets and it’s really hard to get them,” Stephens said. “There’s four pieces of garbage per Band-Aid. I was looking at a tape dispenser one day, and I was like ‘Oh, maybe that would be a good idea.’”
Stephens, who lives in Coeur d’Alene, said she hopes that while she chases her dream of becoming an Olympic swimmer, she can find time to make more inventions.
Samantha Schroeder, an eighth-grade student from North Idaho STEM Charter Academy, took home first place among inventions without a developed prototype. She said she hopes to one day develop her invention — a clear spray for the bottom of boats that prevents the spread of invasive pants — into a real product.
“I went up to Hauser Lake over the summer. Hauser Lake has a lot of invasive aquatic plants and it’s murky. People don’t like to swim in it,” Schroeder said. “I said it would be cool if we could reduce those plants, and I know that boats are a major way that they are being transported around.”
Brandon Hill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org