Pailin Cooper’s superhero, Marvelous Colorful Designer, can make clothes — in case someone is in need of some.

“I like inventing everything (and) making new friends, ” Cooper said.

The to-be fourth grader from Oak Grove Elementary School wants to design clothes and be a dance teacher when she grows up. Her superhero came to existence through the summer program, Camp Invention.

The five-day program taught by Montrose County School District teachers, was held this week at Oak Grove Elementary School and is now in its fourth year. The theme was Supercharged, and 50 kids participated, including students from Pope John Paul II Academy, Maslow Academy, PEAK, home school, schools in Ouray and even from Lakewood.

Students rotate through four programs: Innovation Force taught by Lee Woods a teacher at Oak Grove; Deep Sea Mystery taught by Olathe Elementary School teacher Kyle Ayer; Farm Tech taught by Johnson Elementary School Kayla Pfannenstiel; and DIY Orbot taught by Chris Braaten who teaches at Columbine Middle School.

Oak Grove Principal Dana Carpenter’s own children went through this program, which inspired her to bring it to Montrose. Although the students are having fun, they are also getting in some STEM learning. Students learn the science, technology, engineering and math and then the problem-based learning comes in.

“It’s a little bit different than just regular school, during the school year,” Carpenter said. “I like seeing kids learn in a different kind of environment. I like bringing different kids together. … At this point there kids that have been coming for three or four years, and it’s been fun to watch them grow, develop and expand on what they’ve learned every year.”

Camp Invention sends the curriculum and the teachers bring it to fruition. Carpenter said it’s good tool for teachers, since the district has an emphasis on STEM. Each session is 75 minutes long and includes content, a challenge and then the students are able to come up with their own solutions.

Innovation Force has the students creating a superhero. Deep Sea Mystery goes over everything from using stars to navigate and sails. Farm Tech goes over the business side of agriculture, pollinating a farm and more. DIY Orbot has students creating a bot of their own.

This year’s sessions are strong, Carpenter said.The DIY Orbot class learned about various artists, dancing and the robots, then drew a picture. It was hard to pick a favorite, Carpenter added.

“When people hear STEM, they think it’s all about robots and high tech stuff, and it’s not,” She said. “It’s about how we use technology to hopefully better our lives and other people’s lives.”

Parents are kept up to date throughout the week. Carpenter said the guardians are invited to the Inventors’ Showcase on Friday where they will tour the classrooms and see what their children have been doing.

The nonprofit The National Inventors Hall of Fame sponsors the program and partners with Oak Grove to offer scholarships. The money on Oak Grove’s side come from fundraisers done throughout the year. Ten students received some form of scholarship.

“I don’t want it to be something that only people who can pay, that it’s easy to pay for, to participate in so I scholarship several kids each year,” Carpenter said.

Camper Eddie Radovich has been coming for years. The incoming fifth-grader from Cottonwood Elementary School enjoyed making traps to keep the wolf away from the pig during the Farm Tech session.

“I like making stuff and solving problems,” Radovich said. He hopes to attend again next summer.

Another program benefit is that it brings a different leadership opportunity to middle and high school students, Carpenter said. High school students are also able to count this program toward their volunteer hours.

Monica Garcia is the news editor for the Montrose Daily Press.

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