Ever want to alert drivers of deer, calm a teething baby, play games with trash or sail laundry to the washer?
Tabernacle Elementary School fourth graders have it all covered, and their inventions are leading them to the South Jersey Regional STEAM Tank competition.
Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) are included in the competition by the New Jersey School Boards Association and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to inspire the next generation of participants in the growing fields. Scholarships, funding and patents are awarded in the late fall.
The U.S. Army Reserve Center – Blackwood (390 Woodbury-Turnersville Road, Blackwood) will be packed with hundreds of students as they present their inventions in hopes of advancing to the statewide competition in October.
Elementary, middle and high school students compete against teams in their respective groups until the October competition, where an overall winner is chosen.
TES hopes to be in the October competition with a deer dash flash, a Frattle for babies, trash shooters and laundry liftoff, all of which were created in the school’s Collaboratory, a space for STEAM projects and lessons.
“You know how you have your laundry basket and you have to move your laundry from one room to the other?” student Lilly Voss asked. “We created the laundry liftoff and the little string goes down the stairs and gets to your basement automatically, without going downstairs to carrying your basket down.”
Tayla Wakefield’s team created Trash Shooters after noticing that kids neglect to toss their trash in appropriate receptacles in parks and on beaches. The invention makes throwing trash away fun, as Wakefield explained, with a basketball net and football goal posts.
Frattle co-creator Gemma Schleper said her group attached a teething ring to a rattle to quell a baby’s cries during teething.
Living in the Pinelands National Reserve inspired Charliegh Devereaux to create the Deer Dash Flash, a car warning system to prevent accidents caused by the animals.
“I thought we should make a little circle that has a deer on it, you press a button on your steering wheel and it lights up to let the person (in the car) behind you know there are deer coming,” Devereaux shared.
More inventions were introduced, but the school narrowed them down to four after an intense in-house competition and critiques from middle school students.
“With the deer dash flash, they had the little car model that turned a light on to let people know about deer. Now we have one that’s wired up and functioning to the steering wheel,” explained Brittany Murro, Collaboratory teacher.
“They take their prototypes and put them to the test.”
Many of the inventor groups want to expand their work so they can eventually market to more people. Meanwhile, input and critiques from older students helped the fourth graders prepare for the rapid-fire question portion of regionals.
“They (middle schoolers) asked us, ‘How could you see the light during the day?’ And I said ‘Well, you can see a blinker during the day,’” Caleb Roswell recalled.
Murro explained the young inventors hit roadblocks searching for ideas not already created or patented.
“There are so many things out there, and we had to create something that hasn’t been designed yet, or make a noticeable improvement to something that doesn’t exist,” she added.
The competitors have no worries about keeping focus once they advance past regionals.
“When we go home, we can think about how we can make our designs better and how we can improve it if it falls,” said Jacob Smith, of the Trash Shooters.
Murro and Assistant Principal Shaun Banin commended the students for their in-school performances.
“They persevered, worked really hard, put the time in and they did it themselves,” Murro shared. “I think we have some entrepreneurs in our hands.“