Invention Convention: Inspiring Young Dreamers and Doers

Mrs. Elizabeth Magnusson, 5th and 6th Grade Science Instructor, is passionate about bringing the inner innovators — the dreamers and doers — out in her students. In a world where creativity and innovation are rapidly becoming more sought-after than formal education, that is a gift that will only grow in value as the students progress through their educational journey and, eventually, into their careers.

Dreamers and Doers is the theme this year for the 5th and 6th Grade curriculum across all subjects. The beauty of Academy at the Lakes’ 5th and 6th Grade Suite is the ability to apply themes like this that seep into each class, tying together everything students learn from science to language arts to social studies, math, and even Spanish.

“We all focus on the how people with vision and passion can change the world for the better,” Mrs. Magnusson explained, “In Language Arts class, the students are reading a book called, The Toothpaste Millionaire, where a young entrepreneur invents his own toothpaste and takes his product to the market. They also learn about presentation skills in Language Arts during this quarter. In Social Studies, the students have been studying early American history. The students are creating a sales pitch to convince people to come to one of the 13 original colonies using the techniques also used in Language Arts and Science class.”

Invention Convention is the culmination of a quarter-long study in which students use the skills and knowledge they are honing from all of their subject areas. Students begin the process by observation. What problems do they come across in their lives? What about friends and family? From there, students conduct interviews, create sketches, research patents and similar technology, and brainstorm how they can create an invention to solve the problem. They build a prototype and make adjustments and tweaks based on feedback from one on one conferences with Mrs. Magnusson. Students then research the scientific aspects of their invention and write a research paper.

“The entire process requires a great deal of responsibility and problem solving on the part of the students. They not only learn how to handle a long-term project, they also learn how to prepare for a very public presentation,” said Mrs. Magnusson, “We conference one-on-one on a weekly basis. I bring up ideas and suggestions. Ultimately, the student is the ‘boss.’ It is up to them to take the feedback into consideration and fine tune their work. “

Academy’s 4th Invention Convention was held on Tuesday, Dec. 8 in the gym. Armed with their sales pitches, prototypes, project boards, and innovative ideas, 5th – 8th Grade students presented their inventions to parents, faculty, and staff. Maybe – eventually – some will have the opportunity to present their project live on HSN as part of the USF Young Innovators Contest with a chance to win a cash prize for themselves and the school.

“Students love the thrill of presenting to our visitors, and for those who are chosen to present to the USF Young Innovator panel of judges, it is a once in a lifetime experience that will always be remembered,” Mrs. Magnusson said.

The USF Young Innovators competition is open to students in Kindergarten through 8th Grade (K-8) in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Citrus, Manatee, Sarasota and Polk counties. As a result, there is always a very large pool of applicants, over 500 per year. Academy has only entered students 3 times, but every time we have been extremely successful given the odds.

Academy at the Lakes Student Finalists in the USF Young Innovator Contest

YearTop 50 Semi-FinalistsTop Ten Finalists
2012-20139/50 Almost 20% of the finalists were from AcademyOverall Grand Prize Champion – Alex Kimball
2013-20147/50 (entered 18 students)Overall Grand Prize Champion – Melissa Feingold
Trademark Award – Hannah Fowler
2014-20154/50 (Entered only 8th Grade students)Third Place Overall Winner – Hanley Riggs

“Invention Convention encompasses all aspects of our Core Curriculum, while encouraging students to apply STEM skills to solve a real-world problem. Throughout history, we see that one invention can have an impact that forever changes the world for the better. It is important that our students travel the road to invention at an early age in the hopes that one day they too will create something that makes our world better.”


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