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Release: Nov. 4, 1999

Invent Iowa 2000 organizers hope to draw more high school students

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It’s time for Iowa’s future Edisons, Bells and Curies to put on their thinking caps.

The University of Iowa will be the site of the 2000 Invent Iowa state convention Saturday, April 2, 2000, and the UI’s Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development is hoping to get more Iowa high school students involved.

This year, more than 300 Iowa students took part in the state convention, which was held at Iowa State University April 24. Iowa State and the University of Iowa have agreed to alternate the site between the two schools every year.

"High school students have been invited to Invent Iowa in past years, but not as systematically as we wanted them to be," said Laurie Croft, Ph.D., the Belin-Blank Center’s Invent Iowa coordinator. "We hope to encourage them to come up with technologically sophisticated inventions and innovations."

To that end, the Belin-Blank Center plans to send out brochures this semester to high schools inviting them to start the process of identifying possible participants. Croft said her office will also make follow-up contacts with last year’s eighth-grade participants.

Another change next year is that third-graders will be able to take part in the state convention for the first time. Also, if the Area Education Agencies (AEAs) allow it, projects produced by students in kindergarten through second grade can be evaluated and given certificates at local meets.

In the past, the 10-year-old program has been geared primarily toward students in fourth through eighth grades, although even younger students have been encouraged to take part in local conventions. To reach the state event, inventions are selected at local and regional meets sponsored by the state’s 15 AEAs.

One catalyst for getting high school students more involved in Invent Iowa is the UI College of Engineering, which began working with the program for the first time last year. In addition to helping organize the competition, the college next year will offer tours and other activities.

"I think the potential is for it to just be terrific," Croft said.

Students are encouraged to develop inventions or innovations that generally meet the requirements for a patent in the United States. In other words, they must be "new, useful and non-obvious." To make the experience more meaningful, students are encouraged to keep journals chronicling their inventions from concept to completion.

Past inventions have included glow-in-the-dark glasses, an automatic toilet paper dispenser, a hooded citrus peeler and a "Cool Stickin’ Schoolbox" that prevents pencils, glue and other school supplies from shifting around when carried.

"We encourage teachers to teach a method of problem-solving when guiding students in their projects," Croft said. "But we also want to allow for serendipitous inventions -- the ‘ah-ha’ experience. We want kids to talk to parents, grandparents and friends and find out what things irritate people and how to fix them."

For more information, contact Croft at (319) 335-6148 or via e-mail at laurie-croft@uiowa.edu. Or visit www.uiowa.edu/~belinctr/special-events/.