Megan McCauley came up with an inventive way to describe the activity at Grandview Heights Schools' Camp Invention program.
"It's controlled chaos that leads to fun and learning for students," said McCauley, a 2015 Grandview graduate who went on to major in secondary education at Ohio University.
McCauley led the Farm Tech station at this year's camp, held June 3-7 at Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School.
Camp Invention is a grant program funded by the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
"The goal of the program is to inspire students and give them the opportunity to invent, create, design and problem-solve through science, engineering, math and the arts," chief academic officer Jamie Lusher said.
Lusher served as co-director of this year's camp in Grandview with Stevenson Elementary School kindergarten teacher Joe Liptrap.
"Camp Invention is a different outlet for learning for kids than they get in school," Liptrap said. "During school, the learning is more structured. This is a little more laid-back and open-ended because it's a camp situation."
The program helps keep students engaged in and excited about learning during the summer, Lusher said.
Students disengaged from learning during the summer often experience a slide downward from the knowledge level they had achieved by the end of spring, she said.
"That means they have to spend some time when school returns catching up to get back to where they were," Lusher said.
Each day during the five-day program, youngsters rotated through five stations, each of which offered hands-on activities that required students to use their ingenuity, inventiveness, creativity and problem-solving skills.
"There's really no rules to what ideas they can come up with," Lusher said. "Basically, the two things we tell them is to be kind and to be safe. Otherwise, they can go where their imagination takes them."
In Farm Tech, students learned about running a business by managing their own farm. They used a small robot to perform mock DNA experiments to check the health of their cattle and programmed the robot to complete tasks, such as building a pen for their pigs.
At the DIY Robot station, youngsters designed their own remote-controlled bot and adapted it to perform increasingly challenging tasks through the week.
As part of Innovation Force, students designed and created devices they used to retrieve ideas that had been stolen by a supervillian dubbed the Plagiarizer.
At the Deep Sea Mystery station, students worked in teams to invent tools to survive on an island and get themselves back home.
The activities allowed students to mix science with creativity, Lusher said.
"What I've loved is seeing the excitement on the kids' faces when they come to Camp Invention each day," Liptrap said. "They're excited about learning, and as an educator, that's so great to see."
Keeping students engaged and eager to learn will help make them ready to dive into school when classes resume in August, he said.
About 120 students participated in this year's Camp Invention program, Lusher said.
The number has grown each year since the program started in 2015 and was at full capacity this year, she said.
The program is open to students in grades K-6.
Thirty middle school and high school students served as volunteers to help operate each day's activities.
The volunteer opportunity gives the older students the chance to accept leadership roles and serve as mentors to the younger students, Liptrap said.
"It helps prepare them for the more-involved leadership roles they're going to be taking on as they go through middle school and high school," he said.
Fifth-grader Tucker Betz said he was eager to join Camp Invention "because you get to do a lot of great activities and have fun."
Tucker said he likes the experimental nature of the activities.
The device he created to retrieve the ideas (pieces of paper) stolen by the Plagiarizer was a kind of tweezers made out of plastic.
"It didn't really work, but I like how you're able to learn things even when something doesn't work," Tucker said. "It helps you figure out how you can do it better."
Fifth-grade student Lily Rickert said she loves school, but likes Camp Invention even better.
"You get to use things you invent, but in a more-creative way," she said. "In school, you're given an assignment and you kind of have to do it a certain way. In Camp Invention, you get to make up your own plan."
Making the devices was fifth-grader Owen Berman's favorite part of Camp Invention.
"I like working with electronic things," he said. "We have a computer at home that isn't working and I like taking it apart and finding out what's inside."
At Camp Invention, "it's been fun making things out of materials you wouldn't usually use in a real invention," Owen said.
He used pipes and a pipe cleaner to create his device to snatch the ideas back from the Plagiarizer.
"It turned out to work just fine," Owen said.