Students compete to change the world

Nearly 200 local students will compete in the 34th annual Invent Idaho Regional competition Jan. 21-22 at Silver Lake Mall.

An awards ceremony at 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22 will recognize the most creative scientific inventions that solve world problems, all designed by children in grade schools.

“Our region is full of amazing young inventors,” says Beth Brubaker, state coordinator for Invent Idaho. “We see our inventors as young as in kindergarten all the way through high school develop solutions to problems they are passionate about.”

The annual competition was formed to encourage kids to think creatively to solve challenges through innovation and invention.

Three regional competitions, like the one in Coeur d’Alene, will culminate in an Invent Idaho finals round.

Awards will be by grade and by category, plus best in show and a people’s choice award.

The public is invited to come and vote for the people’s choice award from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 22 at the mall.

The five categories students can win are as follows:

  • Working models, where the project functions and works
  • Non working models, so concepts or plans for an invention
  • Adaptations, new and improved ideas or taking something in existence and making it better
  • Gadgets and games, digital games, card games, board games or sports
  • Jules Verne, futuristic ahead of its time

Some inventions expected to compete at this year’s convention include: Deer Liquid, Super Smelly Stink Bug Slayer, Wolfe Blade and Auto-Scoops.

The convention intentionally coincides with National Kid Inventors Day on Jan. 17, celebrating inventor Benjamin Franklin’s birthday, and the innovation of children everywhere who share his spirit of creativity.

“Whether it is to help themselves, someone they love, or to make our world better, our students go on to win national and global awards, and even get patents and take their inventions to market,” Brubaker said.

Winning students will be paired with a senior student mentor in the University of Idaho engineering department to create prototypes for their inventions, in the hopes of getting patents for production.

“This year, our Master of Ceremonies for the North Idaho Regional Invention Convention is Alex Knoll,” Brubaker said. “To me, that’s special.”

Alex Knoll was also an Invent Idaho competitor from Coeur d’Alene, who went on to create an app that became a worldwide success. Knoll saw a need for people with disabilities to be able to locate accessible stores or services, and created Mobility App to guide people with impairments through their community. Knoll, now 17, was featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show at 12 years old and went on to win the Diana award, to speak around the world and to be the CEO of the Mobility App he created.

Coeur d’Alene is also home to the state award-winning fifth grader, Julianna Schwam, who invented a Safe S’mores Shield and took home the first-place prize in the 2020 Invent Idaho competition.

The Safe S’mores Shield is described as “a lightweight, portable and collapsible heat-reflective shield that includes a telescoping stick that protects the user from heat, fire and sparks when they are engaging in roasting activities in proximity to a fire.”

Invent Idaho is a springboard for kids to create, where competitors can meet their congressmen, corporate representatives or sponsors.

If students win a ribbon in this regional competition, they will move on to the state final in March.

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