Creativity rules at Lutz Preparatory summer camp

Camp Invention isn’t your typical summer camp.

It’s a camp where kids are encouraged to strap on their creative thinking caps and let their imaginations run wild.

And, that’s exactly what was going on at Lutz Preparatory School last week.

This year’s curriculum tested a variety of the young students’ skills.

Caitlyn Commedor sits near her Mod My Mini Mansion. (B.C. Manion)

In one challenge, campers designed their own Optibot, a small driving robot that senses changes in light.

In another, campers dreamed up their own futuristic smart home — complete with high-tech innovations.

Another group got involved with cupcake catapults, while another worked on nursing a sick robotic puppy back to good health.

This is the fourth summer that Lutz Preparatory has hosted Camp Invention — a program of the National Inventors Hall of Fame in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

The national program serves more than 140,000 students each year, partnering with nearly 1,700 schools and districts across the nation, according to program materials.

It’s a summer camp that challenges kindergarten through sixth-graders to find their inner inventor — and that’s exactly what it was doing in the classrooms at Lutz Preparatory.

Liam Loper, 6, is eager to answer a question at the Camp Invention summer camp, held at Lutz Preparatory School.

Kids were buzzing with excitement, chattering with each other on projects they were doing.

Six-year-old Liam Loper was working on his Mod My Mini Mansion, which featured, among other things, a windmill made of clothespins to help generate energy.

The young boy said he was having fun at the camp and it seemed like everyone else was, too.

Meanwhile, in another classroom, 9-year-old Audrey Wehling, was talking about the Optibot she designed.

“We had to design a car with sensors,” she said. Her car, she said would fly and would go under water.

She also gave it name: Bob 2.0.

“I’ve always liked the name Bob,” she said. “I thought adding 2.0 was cool.”

Kids weren’t the only ones enjoying themselves at the camp.

Greg Robbibaro, who led the group of fifth- and sixth-graders, said the camp encourages kids to go on mental explorations.

“The kids get to expand their imagination. They get to have a little bit of freedom with all kinds of things that would otherwise be thought of as junk, but they get to make these creations that they’re extremely proud of,” Robbibaro said.

Andrea Ball, who was leading a younger group, said the camp gives kids a great way to learn how to work with others and to think.

Audrey Wehling, 9, gave her Optibot a name: Bob 2.0. She says she has always liked the name Bob and thought it would be cool to add 2.0 to it.

“I think it’s good that they work with people they don’t know. They’re so used to working with their friends or their classmates,” she said.

“They have to do unstructured activities, which can be hard. They have to think outside the box,” she said.

“I’m not going to tell them how to do it. They have to brainstorm,” she said.

It’s good for the children, she said. “We need more of that.”

This year’s camp drew 111 participants primarily from Lutz, Land O’ Lakes, Wesley Chapel and Odessa, said Christina Mitchelson, the camp director.

The camp was led by five instructors and 15 leadership interns.

The leadership interns are area high school students who are earning community service hours needed for scholarship requirements, she said.

“Our leadership interns have been fantastic,” Mitchelson said.

They help the instructors and help the students, as well.

For instance, when a young student is having trouble with a particular task, the leadership intern can step in.

Leadership interns also direct games during the lunch break, once the children finish eating.

The level of engagement was obvious, as kids keyed into the activities going on in the classrooms.

They were chattering, quiet, or eager to answer questions — depending on what was happening in the room.

Mitchelson said the camp is popular every year.

“They love this camp. They wish it went on longer,” she said.

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Published June 20, 2018

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