Inventor’s Workshop

Hello camp families! Another week of camp has come to a close. This week we had a lot of fun solving challenges with hands on projects we built and also just building things for the fun of it. Here is a summary of what we did each day with some pictures as well.


On Monday we introduced campers to the engineering design process, which is a series of steps one can use to help solve problems. Throughout the week we would look back on this process to help solve challenges and build things effectively.

One of the first challenges we took upon ourselves to do was the marshmallow design challenge. In this challenge campers worked together in groups to build the tallest tower with 20 pieces of spaghetti. Additional materials they could use were string and tape. Their towers also had to hold a marshmallow on top. The winning team was the blue team who built their tower 35 inches tall!

Another challenge that campers did was the toxic marshmallow design challenge. The scenario of this challenge is a bit silly but fun. Campers had to decontaminate a container of toxic marshmallows by creating a device to dump the toxic marshmallows in a decontamination container. The imaginary contamination zone made it so that campers could not get close to the container, so they really had to do some thinking when it came to creating their contraption. The materials they had in this challenge were rope, yarn, bicycle tires, and rubber-bands. I think this one was one of the harder challenges of the week, but most groups were able to come up with a solution!

A more lax activity that campers did on Monday was building a roller coaster out of foam track and tape. In this activity campers also learned about potential and kinetic energy, which we would revisit later in the week.


Tuesday began the discussion of different branches of engineering. The branch we focused on this day was civil/structural engineering.

We built another tower but this time out of Legos. Before we began building our Lego towers we first went over a few things that engineers take into consideration when building. One of these things are forces that can act upon buildings i.e. earthquakes. When building a resilient tower one thing engineers focus on is the design. Certain shapes are stronger and more durable than others as we learned. We took this into practice when building our Lego towers and then tested them out with our shake table. This is something that engineers use to simulate earthquakes on model buildings.

A really fun challenge we did was the straw boat challenge. In this challenge campers had to build a boat with 5 straws and tape. Once they built their boat they tested them out to see which boat could hold the most coins. As we were testing the boats out we soon discovered that not only did the build of the boat affect how much it could hold but so did the placement/distribution of the coins. In the end the camper whose boat held the most coins was Gus, with 43 coins!!!

The winning design!


Another building challenge we did was with Popsicle sticks, cups and some wooden blocks. This activity was rather open ended. Campers were tasked with several different mini challenges that either varied the materials they could use or the overall goal. For example the first challenge was to build a structure with just one cube as the base. Another challenge tasked campers to build a structure and have something stick out in an impressive manner. Due to the open-endedness of this challenge there were a variety of different results. But I think all campers learned that regardless of the challenge, balance and symmetry are important to take into account when building a stable structure.

Campers also played with K’Nex Structures Kit and built all sorts of structures, such as buildings and bridges.


Wednesday’s topic was electrical engineering.

One of the first activities we did was a conductivity experiment. In the conductivity experiment we learned about conductivity by using a battery, some alligator tips, a small LED light-bulb and an assortment of objects, such as paper clips, nails, pencils, paper etc. First we made a closed circuit by connecting the battery, bulb, and clips appropriately. When we did this the light-bulb lit up since the circuit was complete. Next we went through the assortment of objects to test which ones were conductive and which ones were not. If they were conductive then we would know because the object would complete the circuit and light up the bulb

LED Art we made after the conductivity experiment.


The next two activities both dealt with electricity and magnetism. These were more demos for safety reasons since connecting the wires to the batteries could result in the batteries getting too hot to touch. We first talked about how electricity can create a magnetic field. To demonstrate this we used a battery, a toilet paper tube, tape and some copper wire. The battery was our source of electricity and the wires would carry the current. We then tested whether or not a magnetic field was generated by hovering a compass around the electromagnet. Sure enough the compass was affected by our electromagnet.

We built another electromagnet with a battery, nail and copper wire. Once it was setup we tested it out with a paperclip and it worked! We then tried picking up more paper clips and we were able to get quite a few more. Once we reached the capacity we tweaked the magnet to try and increase its strength. They way we did this was either by changing the number of coils (the wire was wrapped around the nail) or by using different battery sizes.

Campers also got the chance to play with Snap Circuits. Snap Circuits are a set of blocks with snaps that kids use to build different electrical and electronic circuits in all sorts of projects.


Thursday was mechanical engineering day.

One activity we did was make balloon powered car. As the name hints our cars were powered by the energy stored in the balloon. After we finished building them, we raced them against each other.



We also built mini helicopters out of craft sticks, rubber-bands, paperclips, propellers and tape. The way these contraptions were powered were not by a motor, but by the tension from rubber-bands. We figured out that winding them up more increased the tension and generally did result in a greater launch however there definitely was a tipping point.



Campers also got to play with K’nex Cars. Similar to the K’nex Structures Kit that the campers played with on Tuesday, the Cars Kit allowed the campers to build different types of vehicles that move via different means. Some vehicles ran via rubber-bands and tension, others had motors and other vehicles were pullback motor cars.



Friday was robot day. Today we played with all sorts of robots of varying complexity.

Hexbugs are simple robots that do not have to be programmed. Campers built mazes for these bots and then let the Hexbugs try to navigate through them. These guys had a mind of their own, so there was a lot of patience required when trying to get the robots to complete the maze.

Ozobots are small programmable robots. The campers programmed them with an app. In the app they can choose a bunch of different commands the robot can follow and then compile all the commands in a list for it to follow. The commands range from moving, turning,  and flashing lights. These robots were more intermediate.

The LEGO Mindstorm Robots were the most complex robots that we programmed and played with today. These robots can do a whole lot of everything, from moving all around, to throwing things, to making noise. Campers had a blast programming these robots!