Wearing safety goggles to fend off flying metal missiles, elementary-age students in the "I Can Invent" class at Camp Invention gleefully smashed alarm clocks, toasters, fans and other small appliances to end up with piles of metal and plastic parts.

Wearing safety goggles to fend off flying metal missiles, elementary-age students in the "I Can Invent" class at Camp Invention gleefully smashed alarm clocks, toasters, fans and other small appliances to end up with piles of metal and plastic parts.

Camp Invention at Hilliard City Schools was held June 11-16 at Alton Darby Elementary School.

Teacher Flavious Martin, a substitute teacher for the district, presided over the chaos, helping students learn what made some of those appliances work and helping them create new inventions from chunks of broken appliances.

"We've taken apart computers, fans, radios and many other appliances," Martin said. "We also talked about what we found. The kids found a sensor in a DVR and we talked about it being like a small camera.

"We are reverse engineering in this class, so that figuring out how things work might not stay such a mystery."

Students were given a major objective after disassembling the appliances: "Create a device that will burst a water balloon," for example.

The students taped parts together and experimented with the many ways they might be able to burst a balloon, with varying degrees of success, but having a lot of fun while learning, Martin said.

In another room, Alton Darby music teacher Terri Root led students through an exploration of magnets in a city dubbed Magnetropolis. It began with the building of handcrafted ships to get to the last known location of an island.

On Friday, June 16, the students who had created the ships earlier in the week were learning ways to measure magnetic force and light up a city.

"I'm a music teacher but I love science," Root said. "Camp Invention helps me work with kids on a difficult subject and learn along with the kids.

"I love hands-on science -- it's the best way to learn. It is a great way to learn in smaller classes and a wonderful opportunity for the kids."

Lauren Morris, a fifth-grader, said she liked the Magnetropolis module because she loves creating.

"We're learning how to do creative things with lights and light bulbs and learning how to light up Magnetropolis," she said.

Sophie Berkemer, also a fifth-grader, said she likes inventing things.

"I love creating something new," she said. "It's hard sometimes, but it really makes you think about how people make inventions and how cool things are when they work."

Heather Lambright, a fourth-grade teacher at Alton Darby, was guiding the program's first-graders, who were busy making people for Magnetropolis.

A boy came to her with a twisted pipe cleaner, and said, "I can't do this."

"We don't say that in this class," she told him. "We say, 'Yes, we can do this.'"

She said even the younger students come up with creative ideas.

"I love to watch the kids become so creative and innovative," she said. "I tell them, 'The sky's the limit -- the wilder and crazier the idea, the better.'"

The day ended with a showcase in the auditorium, where students received their certificates for the week, then led parents to classrooms to show off their new inventions.

Martin told parents, "I was the guy who destroyed all your stuff."

Those parents had sent in their broken or unused appliances for the "I Can Invent" module.

Jillian Cross, teacher and director of the weeklong program for the Hilliard City Schools, said students love the week so much that they come back to help other students when they are too old for the program.

This is the fifth year she has coordinated the program.

Cross said the activities mesh well with the district's project-based learning goals and that organizations such as American Electric Power and Time Warner donated more than $1,500 to provide scholarships for students who could not afford the tuition, which is $220 for the five-day program.

The program is sponsored by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and a number of other state and regional sponsors.