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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 13, 2010

BKW students carry on a grand tradition of invention

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — Once again, Berne-Knox-Westerlo students have found their place in the Invention Convention semifinals, as they have every year since the inception of the contest 13 years ago.

Invention Convention is an annual competition in which Capital District students, in kindergarten through eighth grade, invent solutions to problems in their lives. Students come to the competition from as far west as Canajoharie, as far north as Warren County, and as far south as Dutchess County.

BKW science teacher Karen Barber has been leading her students to the convention semifinals for more than a decade now.

“Solving problems is a life skill, and if you can’t look at a problem and solve it, then you’re just going to have difficulty throughout your life,” Barber said.

“Think of what they’re doing now with the oil spill,” she went on, referring to the April 20 explosion of an oilrig about 50 miles off the southeast coast of Louisiana; thousands of gallons of oil have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico every day since the explosion.

“You can’t sit back and say, ‘Poor me,’” Barber said. “We’ve got to solve these problems, for mankind and the environment.”

Of the 1,400-plus submissions this year, 100 semifinalists were chosen, and asked to create models of their inventions. Seven of those semifinalists are from BKW’s sixth-grade class:

— Kaitlyn Curvin, with her “Mobile Child Harness”;

— Greg Haley, with his “Automatic Fish Feeder Plus Light Control”;

— Amanda Meehan, with her “Padded Fold-up Tray for School Buses”;

— Jeremy Sawyer, with his “Jiffy Fixer”;

— Annielaura Shafer, with her “Complete Shower”;

— Patrick Stempel, with his “Restaurant TV Headsets and Speakers”; and

— Alexis Thompson, with her “Expandable Picture Frame.”

These inventions are on display at the Schenectady Museum through May 27, when the top 25 finalists will be chosen and given a medal at an award ceremony at the museum.

Ilene Frank, associate director at the museum, thinks this competition is an integral part of the students’ education.

“I think that a competition like this really brings a lot of excitement and enthusiasm to the students,” Frank said. “They get to see that engineering can be very easy for them to accomplish, and they learn about the invention process through the whole experience. For some students, that really inspires them to pursue engineering or technology in the future.”

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