The collective creativity and ingenuity of some of the brightest young minds in the Hilliard City Schools were on display at an Invention Convention last week at Britton Elementary School.
About 140 students in grades 2 to 5 from all 14 elementary schools in the district participated in the event, showcasing their inventions to judges in a "Shark Tank"-style manner.
"It's a great project for our students. ... They brainstorm and problem-solve," said Karen Lycan, a gifted-student intervention specialist at Avery and Horizon elementary schools.
All students in the district's program for gifted students, which is called Focus, participated in an exercise to identify a problem and propose solutions, Lycan said, but this year some were offered the option of competing in the Invention Convention.
No such event was held last year but Hilliard has held other Invention Conventions in the past, Lycan said.
The first was about a dozen years ago, she said.
Additional requirements for the Invention Convention included keeping a journal, building a prototype and then explaining to the judges a problem, how the prototype functions and how the product would be manufactured and marketed.
"We call it an elevator pitch," said Lycan, who told students to act as if they met an executive in an elevator and had only moments to pitch their idea.
Students also watched episodes of "Shark Tank," the TV show in which contestants try to persuade one of a panel of four millionaire entrepreneurs to invest in their product or service.
Students also learned the difference between inventing and innovating, the former being a new product and the latter an improvement on an existing product, Lycan said. Both are permitted in the competition. The judges included parents and community members, some of whom have a background in science or engineering, she said.
Four winners are eligible to advance to a state Invention Convention competition during the Ohio State Fair later this year.
They are Chloe Chan, a fourth-grader at Hilliard Crossing, Khushi Gagrani, a fourth-grader at Hoffman Trails, Ella Tornes, a second-grader at Avery, and Allen Ropp, a fifth-grader at Horizon.
Students' ideas and designs ranged from the ambitious, such as attaching helium canisters to backpacks to help bear their weight, to the practical, such as a product Allen designed for his brother, who has autism.
Allen said his 7-year-old brother, Nicky, inspired him to make the Autism Belt.
"It made me cry when he brought it home and showed it to me," said Allen's mother, Sabrina Ropp.
The belt has a pouch to carry a pair of earplugs and also pairs of rings and other toys Allen called "fidgets" that his brother can play with.
"Nicky uses it and it works well for him," he said.
Another practical invention was promoted by Sofia Campo, a third-grader at J.W. Reason Elementary School.
She created Learning Jeans.
Inspired by children at her aunt's day care center who sometimes confused their left and right shoes, Sofia came up with the idea to make jeans with large letters L and R stitched upside down on the knee of each leg.
Several inventions were the product of teamwork, including the Baby-band Brain Saver, invented by Avery fourth-graders Hailey Pearson and Dylan Tornes.
Hailey said the idea began after she saw her toddler cousin fall and hit his head on a CD player, requiring a precautionary visit to a doctor's office.
She explained the practical side of the product to a judge while Dylan gave a dissertation on the effects of head trauma.