Students’ inventions pick up STEAM at convention

By LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

Every year, thousands of students statewide delve into the world of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) during their school’s Invention Convention. But at South Side School, this annual event now includes art.

Last Friday, South Side kicked off its 2nd Annual Invention Convention with a “STEAM fest” component for the first time. The concept involves infusing art with STEM.

Organized over the course of just two months, South Side’s fifth grade teacher Julia Darcy and art teacher Walter Lewandoski collaborated to make STEAM fest became a reality.

Together they reached out to the community for volunteers who could provide enrichment opportunities in the area of STEAM. From the New England Carousel Museum to Lake Compounce to Bristol Central High School, South Side had a variety of community partners to make the event possible.

“Everybody volunteered their time, and it was amazing to see the community support us so willingly,” said Darcy, who runs the Invention Convention for fourth and fifth graders. “They did an outstanding job.”

During the first part of the school day, fourth and fifth grade students saw presentations that focused on STEM before delving into a STEM-infused art lesson in the afternoon.

Two fourth grade classes took part in a marbling art activity that involved science, while three fifth grades classes applied technology to the LED duct tape bracelets they created.

What the Convention and these activities foster, said Lewandoski, is an appreciation for STEM.

“There’s always science in art,” said Lewandoski, adding how the art lessons will expand students’ horizons. “We do creative problem-solving every art lesson, which is critical to a scientist or mathematician. It’s a life skill. We’re creative thinkers every time we come in here.”

“What we hope is that the students see that the areas of STEAM are all intertwined,” added Darcy, who is Bristol’s 2017 Teacher of the Year.

Next year, Lewandoski said he plans to make STEAM fest “bigger and better.”

“We received so much good feedback, we’re going to try and expand it next year,” said Lewandoski, adding how much support STEAM fest. “I know we can get more funding sources, and with a little more planning, we can get more people involved.”

South Side’s 2nd Annual Invention Convention brought over 30 inventors and 20 judges from a variety of community sectors. Nominated by their teachers, these inventors are creative and responsible fourth and fifth grade students of all academic levels, said Darcy.

The convention also gives students an opportunity to collaborate with their families.

“My goal for Invention Convention is for the kids to be able to channel their creativity, to also collaborate with their families,” said Darcy. “Another goal of the day is to give them an opportunity to interact with members of the community that they normally wouldn’t get the chance to.”

Although the convention is still new at South Side, Darcy said the inventors have amazed her over the past two years.

“It’s really great to see how their minds work,” said Darcy. “We start the process with talking about problems that we face, and how we can create something to solve the problems.”

After making it through the judging process, six inventors from South Side will compete in the regional convention, including Ty Davis and Gabriella McLay. If selected by another team of judges at the regional convention, the students will bring their invention to the statewide convention.

Formed during the 1983-1984 school year, the Connecticut Invention Convention is the nation’s oldest continuously operating children’s invention competition, according to CIC’s website. Every year, more than 10,000 students in grades K-8 from over 200 schools statewide take part in the CIC learning curriculum, reported the non-profit educational program’s website.

For Davis, this year marked his second time participating South Side’s Invention Convention.

“It comes natural to be a little bit nervous, but I had experience with the judges,” said Davis, who created a shirt that can hold ice on three places of an athlete’s arm.

McLay also felt nervous at first, as this year marked her first time participating in the Convention. Her invention helps prevent water bottles from spilling everywhere on a desk.

“But once I talked to the first judge, I wasn’t as nervous,” said McLay.

Besides becoming finalists for the convention, the STEM-infused art lesson also served as a high point of the students’ day, however.

“I was pretty excited about Invention Convention,” said Davis.

“It’s two fun activities in one day,” added McLay.

A group of fourth graders at South Side School delve into a STEM-infused art activity. Last Friday, South Side kicked off its 2nd Annual Invention Convention with a ‘STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) fest component for the first time.