ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
If you’re looking for a more time-efficient way to wash your hands, Kris Rath may be your man.
The Goessel Elementary School fifth-grader has jury-rigged a way to bring soap from a dispenser directly to the faucet, thereby reducing the application time.
Rath was among the 22 fifth-graders at GES to display their cutting-edge products Thursday morning during “Invention Day.”
The event, in its sixth year, is intended to encourage fifth-grade students to exercise their imaginations, according to Jackie Jordan, their teacher and event director.
“The goal is to help the kids be creative and know they have what it takes to do whatever they want to do with their lives,” she said.
Jordan said she has adapted a program she ordered from Interact, a company which markets teacher-generated ideas.
“Invention Day” is the culmination of four weeks of work by the students.
“We start doing some class work and some low-scale inventions in the class just with bits and pieces of stuff,” Jordan said. “Then they come up with an idea for a product.”
“Since it’s been going for six years, the kids, as they tour around, already start thinking when they’re in lower grades what they want to do when they’re fifth-graders,” she added.
The students’ ideas have to be original.
“They have to research and then come up with an idea,” Jordan said. “Then they have to make either a phone call or visit a company that would probably carry a product like theirs and find out if it’s been invented. If it has been, they either have to change to a completely different idea or adapt theirs so that it’s a little bit different.”
With each event, Jordan invites a team from the Goessel community to evaluate the inventions. Each project is given a score between zero and five, along with comments.
This year’s judges were Venita Schroeder, Jerry Toews, Gary Duerksen and Megan Tyrick, a student-observer from Bethel College.
“I let the kids have their scores back so that if they want to go further with their invention, they have some feedback from adults if they need to change it a little bit,” Jordan said.
She even has an 800 number students can use if they want to pursue a patent.
Jordan said she isn’t aware that any of her students have actually taken their inventions onto the market, but she has seen products similar to their inventions marketed by others.
“I wish I had the funds to actually help the kids,” Jordan said. “That’s the drawback with this. They do come up with some really creative ideas, but it is expensive to get a patent.”
Jordan does not choose a specific winner each year. The accomplishment is reward itself.
“Every year the kids come up with neat ideas,” she said. “Even for kids who struggle with paper-pencil kind of work, this really helps them to get things going, knowing they can create something and feel good about themselves.
“I’m proud of each and every one of them,” she added. “They always do a good job.”
Jordan enjoys seeing how her fledgling inventors present themselves to the public on “Invention Day.” GES students from all grades tour the inventions each year, as do the parents and family members of the inventors.
“I always tell them they’re business people, so they have to dress up,” she said. “One of the fun things for me is to see how they will come dressed up. I like to see them.”