After an exciting and busy spell, we recently concluded our summer programs that introduced children to creativity and inventing.
This year, we expanded on our summer camp from last year. We ran our invention themed camps for two age groups – a younger group (1st – 4th grade) and an older group (5th – 8th). The younger group had weekly invention themes (like inventions to simplify chores, making functional clothes etc). For the older group, we did a 2-week camp in collaboration with the Archimedes School (who taught 3D printing). The students made pressure sensors from individual components, 3D printed a casing for their sensors and then used creative thinking techniques to come up with new inventions that would use pressure sensors in a meaningful way.
Our goal was for children to experience the entire creative flow from ideation to prototyping, and learn creativity skills that would last them for longer. Through these creativity techniques, we wanted children to come up with many different ideas to solve a problem. In fact, with the older group, we even tallied how many ideas they got with and without using creativity techniques. Everyone in that group was able to come up with 2x-3x more ideas by using one of the creative thinking approaches! Here are the things we focused on in our camps:
- Understanding Creativity: We started each camp with discussing what creativity means – that it involves coming up with ideas that are both original and useful. Creativity is often confused with art, and it was helpful to clarify that in the beginning with a discussion of what makes something creative.
- Creativity Techniques: For both groups, we focused on two core creative thinking techniques to coming up with original ideas – “Put to Another Use” and “Associative Thinking“. Being able to adapt an object for a different use and finding ways to combine a random object or concept, are fundamental processes in thinking creatively and seem to underlie other creativity techniques. The older group also did other techniques like reversing assumptions, and processes like MindMapping to help them brainstorm more effectively.
- Evaluating Creativity: While it’s important to understand what creativity is, we thought it would be even better if the students knew how they can measure creativity. So, everyone had to evaluate their own as well as others’ ideas on “originality” and “usefulness”. The older group also rated ideas on “impact” and “practicality”. This exercise really helped them in picking the most creative ones to pursue in a systematic way.
- Telling a Story: It’s not enough to come up with a good idea – selling an idea is just as important. So we introduced storytelling and storyboarding concepts to help them tell a compelling story about their invention. The older group pitched their idea to the rest of the group and got useful feedback on their invention and pitch in return.
We were truly heartened to see even the younger children apply these concepts and come up with creative ideas. And we ended up with some very neat inventions in the process!
The younger group came up with ideas like a sweater that converts into a hammock using drawstrings on the collar and bottom (notice the “Put to another use” skill being used here?), a pot with removable handles that also serve as spatulas, a couch with easy access storage bins and many more!
The older group used pressure sensor in many different ways and after searching through the patent database picked ideas that they believed were sufficiently unique and useful. We had a safe stovetop that will switch off when there is no pan on it, a laundry hamper that reminds you to do your laundry regularly, a pencil grip that detects when you are under stress and pressing too hard and several more. And what truly warmed our hearts was when one of the students commented during the demo day, “If all of these were not just prototypes, the world would be so much better!“
We had a great time watching our 40+ campers learn to play with ideas and hope they are inspired to continue their inventive journey beyond our summer camp.