121 students from Washtenaw County participated in the third regional Henry Ford Invention Convention, also known as EMUiNVENT, this March.
EMUiNVENT is a regional, annual event in which teams of students from third to 12th grade utilize innovative thinking and problem-solving to create unique inventions, which are then entered into the competition.
EMU joined the convention as a regional hub in 2019. The university has provided mentors to students interested in being a part of the convention and competition. This combined with teacher involvement from each school, has created a thriving creative environment.
According to Shiri Vivek, the coordinator for EMUiNVENT, 60 teams composed of students from the Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Saline, Plymouth-Canton, and Livonia school districts registered their invention projects in 2019. In this first year of EMU involvement, there were seven categories that the students' projects fell into.
These seven categories were lifestyle products, sustainable living and environmental cleaning, disability support and medical devices, automotive and mobility devices, safety and security, technology advancement, and education. Each team created something that could be used beneficially in one of these categories.
Covid-19 created significant difficulties for how the 2020 convention could operate.
“A large majority of the projects were around the issues students faced as a result of Covid and related guidelines and restrictions,” Vivek said.
Therefore, the students were able to make something positive out of the Covid situation by basing their projects upon creating solutions to the problems brought about by the pandemic.
Mentors for students without mentorship are provided by EMU through the independent inventor program. This initiative is considered an ESTEAM program, which adds entrepreneurship and arts to the STEM umbrella.
“The idea is to encourage even those students who do not see themselves as STEM students because an innovative mindset and problem-solving does not need just science and technology,” Vivek said, “If you have the right idea, you can collaborate with experts in different fields and create a product that will solve the problems of the society and environment.”
Muhammad Ahmed, one of the other key members and organizers of the EMUiNVENT program, highlighted just how important the program can be to school districts deprived of STEM and innovative thinking resources.
“For the parents that want their children to be involved in the convention, but are in school districts that do not have the resources to support those children, they can contact us and be involved in the mentorship programs we offer,“ Ahmed said.
The main focus of the program is to introduce concepts to students that will make them think about the problems they see around them and solutions that they can create in the form of a product.
“The idea is that the students themselves have various ideas in their heads already, and we introduce the concept of issues and problems, whether it be in the environment around them, the larger world, or in their own household,” Ahmed said. “This will then focus them into a particular issue where they will use innovative thinking skills to design something aimed at solving the problem.”
From June to August of this year, EMUiNVENT has organized summer camps under the Dare2Design moniker for all three grade categories involved in the convention. In this program, engineers, entrepreneurs, and scientists from the community will mentor students in small groups to develop their ideas and create prototypes, which can be further developed in the school year.
To learn more about this year's convention and the projects created by each team, visit Invent EMU’s YouTube video covering the event.