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Youngsters urged to ‘follow your passion’ at Invention Convention

The time-crunched, stressed-out world is waiting for the solutions created by 480-plus “brilliant” Midstate youngsters at MTSU’s 24th regional Invention Convention Thursday, Feb. 25, observers and guests unanimously agreed.

Click on the program cover to see all 480-plus youngsters who participated in this year's MTSU Invention Convention.

Click on the program cover to see a list of all 480-plus young inventors and their brainstorms that were a part of the 2016 MTSU Invention Convention.

Asked to invent games and items to “make life easier,” the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders responded with hundreds of gadgets, contraptions and devices that could easily fuel a bidding war among potential reality-show investors.

How about a fishing lure extractor to rescue your favorite streamer or jig from some underwater cedar crag? Maybe a toothbrush to cut the dentist-mandated two minutes to an efficient 30 seconds would help.

A cutting board that protects the chef’s fingers would be a welcome addition to any home, as would a “Daily Dog Feeder,” a remote-controlled trash can or even a shovel marked with depth measurements to make gardening more precise.

“It’s evident from your creativity and your ambition and your drive and your initiative to create these marvelous inventions and present them to the judges … that I want to encourage each and every one of you to follow your passion,” said artist-craftsman Alf Sharp of Woodbury, Tennessee, the event’s guest speaker, who designs, reproduces and handcrafts fine furniture.

Sharp, whose commissioned pieces are in service and on display at The Hermitage, the Tennessee State Capitol and the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville, told the young, “brilliant” inventors to “find what you love to do and then do it, no matter how strange it may seem to other people.

“If you pursue what you really love to do, you will become very good at it. And when you become very good at something, the world will find its way to your door.”

The Invention Convention participants are public- and private-school students in Coffee, DeKalb, Franklin, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner and Wilson counties. More than 120 received ribbons or trophies for this year’s creations, and 20 of those winners are headed next to a new national Invention Convention set for May in Washington, D.C.

MTSU graduate student Rachel Matthews, left, who served as a judge for the 24th annual Invention Convention Feb. 25, listens to T.W. Hunter Middle School sixth-grader Elana Ayers of Hendersonville, Tennessee, explain her invention, the "I PB&J." Ayers's invention brought home a third-place trophy in her grade's "Makes Life Easier" competition. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

MTSU graduate student Rachel Matthews, left, who served as a judge for the 24th annual Invention Convention Feb. 25, listens to T.W. Hunter Middle School sixth-grader Elana Ayers of Hendersonville, Tennessee, explain her invention, the “I PB&J.” Ayers’s invention brought home a third-place trophy in her grade’s “Makes Life Easier” competition. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

“It’s really fun to see so much being done by creative minds,” said Melissa Goostree of Hendersonville, Tennessee, whose sixth-grade son, Andrew, is the avid angler and first-time Invention Convention attendee who came up with the fishing-lure aid.

“There are so many great ideas here that you wouldn’t even think about but would use every day.”

Andrew Goostree’s deft demonstration of “The Ultimate Lure Retriever” for the judges earned him an Individual Champion award in the sixth-grade “Makes Life Easier” category to take home to Knox Doss Middle School.

Fellow inventor Brayden Antoniak of Smithville, Tennessee, wanted to follow house rules and save time, so his triple-sided “30-Second Brush” fit the teeth-cleaning order.

“My parents always tell us to go brush for two minutes, and one time I said, ‘I’ve got a great idea!’” the DeKalb West sixth-grader recalled with a grin. “I came back with an egg-shaped brush that brushes your top and bottom teeth and your tongue all at the same time.”

Oscar Stoffer and Riley Wilson’s cutting board idea bloomed when Stoffer’s grandmother sliced her thumb while mincing garlic. The Winfree Bryant Middle School classmates from Lebanon, Tennessee, came up with a cunningly simple way to make the “Bloodless Board” safer.

“All of a sudden, I heard a little ‘eek!’ and I looked over and my grandma’s thumb had a slit on the top of it,” Stoffer explained as Wilson listened. “She has very soft skin! We didn’t want anybody else to get hurt like that.”

Teachers and family members join some of the 230-plus Midstate youngsters preparing to demonstrate their inventions at MTSU's 24th annual Invention Convention, held Thursday, Feb. 25, in the university's Student Union. Twenty of the winners will move on to the first national Invention Convention this May in Washington, D.C.

Teachers and family members join some of the 230-plus Midstate youngsters preparing to demonstrate their inventions at MTSU’s 24th annual Invention Convention, held Feb. 25 in the university’s Student Union. Twenty of the winners will move on to the first national Invention Convention this May in Washington, D.C. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

MTSU’s Invention Convention is the brainchild of elementary education professor Dr. Tracey Huddleston. She began the program in 1993 in tribute to her mother, a longtime fifth-grade teacher who conducted “Invention Convention”-type events at her school.

Huddleston announced that this year will mark the nation’s first national Invention Convention “finals,” thanks to a pair of Connecticut supporters and the new nonprofit STEMIE Coalition, which aims to boost K-12 invention and entrepreneurship education. Its acronym incorporates the STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — emphasis in education and combines it with invention and entrepreneurship.

State Farm Insurance is the longtime local sponsor of MTSU’s annual Invention Convention.

“I am so proud of all of y’all,” Huddleston told the convention participants, beaming from the Student Union stage. “What you have brought with you today did not exist just a few weeks ago. Can you believe that?”

You can see a list of the 2016 MTSU Invention Convention winners here; those who’ll be part of the national event are marked in blue. The 2016 convention program, which includes the names of all the young inventors, is here.

— Gina E. Fann (gina.fann@mtsu.edu)

Artist-craftsman Alf Sharp of Woodbury, Tennessee, encourages the young participants at MTSU's 24th annual Invention Convention to "find what you love to do and then do it" during the Feb. 25 event. Sharp, who designs, reproduces and handcrafts fine furniture and whose commissioned pieces are in service and on display at The Hermitage, the Tennessee State Capitol and the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville, was the guest speaker for this year's event. (MTSU photo by Gina E. Fann)

Artist-craftsman Alf Sharp of Woodbury, Tennessee, encourages the young participants at MTSU’s 24th annual Invention Convention to “find what you love to do and then do it” during the Feb. 25 event. Sharp, who designs, reproduces and handcrafts fine furniture and whose commissioned pieces are in service and on display at The Hermitage, the Tennessee State Capitol and the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville, was the guest speaker for this year’s event. (MTSU photo by Gina E. Fann)

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