CRANBERRY TWP — After months of hard work, fifth-graders at Seneca Valley's Haine Middle School finally revealed their inventions to the public.
Groups of students presented their unique creations Tuesday to a panel of judges during the school's CIRC Tank, named after the Creativity Innovation and Research Center at the middle school.
It was a play on the popular TV show “Shark Tank,” where inventors pitch their products or services to investors in an effort to get financial backing. Students presented creations like a foldable suitcase, a belt leash to walk your dog hands-free and a shoe that snaps on to fit more easily on your foot.
“We learned it takes a lot of trials to get a product right,” said Mackenzie Tunstall, a fifth-grader who was presenting a portable washing machine with her group.
The CIRC Tank is the culmination of a project that started in September, said Eric Fogle, middle school librarian.
Fogle and Ronelle Rowe, middle school technology facilitator, co-teach in the CIRC Lab that was created in the middle school's library in partnership with the Inventionland Institute, a Pittsburgh-based company that has project-based learning curriculum and creates immersive learning environments in schools. The CIRC Lab at Haine was Inventionland's first classroom renovation.
The teachers adapted Inventionland Institute's curriculum for their CIRC class and asked the students to “invent something new,” Fogle said.
Students brainstormed ideas, created sketches, and built models and prototypes of their inventions. The first prototype was made from cardboard. The second was made from recycled materials found around the school or at home, Rowe said.
As part of the presentation, students created 30- to 45-second-long video commercials to market their invention and also made PowerPoint presentations, Fogle said.
The invention process teaches the students the four C's, Rowe said, which are creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. The collaboration and problem-solving among the groups has been especially fun to watch, Rowe said.
“You're going to have struggles, but you've got to work it out,” she said.
After students pitched their inventions during the CIRC Tank, the judges got to take a closer look at the prototypes and ask questions. Judges were community members, parents, teachers and administrators.
Winners from the six fifth-grade teams will be selected by the judges and get to take a field trip to the Inventionland headquarters near Pittsburgh to compete against each other in the final round.
The sixth-graders at the middle school will begin the invention project shortly and present before the CIRC Tank in May, Rowe said.
Jodi Albert, one judge for Tuesday's presentations, said the students did well, adding that it's not easy to get up in front of peers and adults at that age to speak in public. Albert is also a technology teacher at Connoquenessing Valley Elementary School and a big fan of the “Shark Tank” show.
“Anytime they're learning throughout the experience … that's a part of what real life is,” she said. “It's only going to make them stronger students in the end.”
The CIRC Tank presentations are continuing throughout February, and teachers are seeking volunteers to be judges. To find available dates and sign up, visit http://bit.ly/CIRCTank.