Photos and story by Hannah Adams / Contributing Writer
Thursday marked the 26th annual MTSU Invention Convention. The convention is an event, sponsored by State Farm Insurance, that takes place on campus to promote the creativity of elementary school students, who use poster presentations to demonstrate how their creations work.
Every October, brochures are sent to area teachers by Tracey Huddleston, a professor with the MTSU Department of Elementary and Special Education. Huddleston is the original and current supervisor of the event. These brochures go over the rules of the convention, deadlines and the type of inventions students can create. They have two options: to create a new game or something that makes life easier. Students who compete have until the month of December to send their ideas in.
While the event is open for anyone to see, only fourth, fifth and sixth graders are allowed to compete.
“The reason that it’s fourth, fifth and sixth is because these are the formal years (that) the kids don’t see any limits to their inventions,” said Linda Copciac, an executive aide with the MTSU Department of Elementary and Special Education.
When the convention first started in 1992, there were between 26 and 50 students. This year, the Student Union ballroom was overflowing with 810 children. There were a total of 53 different schools, with counties ranging from Rutherford, Hillsborough, Wilson, Grundy and Bedford County that were represented. While other invention conventions occur nationwide, this is the only one held in Tennessee.
A total of 29 students will be moving on to the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, Michigan, for the National Invention Convention in June. The grand prize winner will be named the Henry Ford Museum Inventor of the Year. Last year, three fifth grade students from Erma Siegel Elementary won this prize for their “E-Z Swing Suits” invention.
At the convention, there were several winning slots available, which were determined by 35 judges. Each grade and each invention category had their own first, second and third-place trophies, as well as awards for Individual Champion, Group Champion, Best Presentation, Judges’ Favorite and the State Farm Excellence Award. Every student was also given a certificate from State Farm. Huddleston explained that the purpose of the many award categories is so that every child has a better chance at walking away with a prize.
Each year, Huddleston also features a type of invention that she gives out as souvenirs for the kids.
“My point is so that students understand that everything had to be invented,” she said. “Somebody had to come up with that idea, and then, make it (and) create it. (The students) are coming up with new ideas and having to put it together and create it.”
This year, the featured invention was a yo-yo with “Invention Convention” written on them.
The students were divided up into sections according to their grade and type of invention. Game creations were in one section in a grade, while creations that make life easier were in a separate section. Most of the children presented their projects in groups of two or three.
Before the awards were given out, featured speaker Doug Campbell was brought onstage to talk to students about drones. Campbell is the operations manager in the MTSU Aerospace Department and is the school’s connection with the state department in regards to unmanned aircraft, or drones.
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