HOBART — If you're looking for the latest in smart homes, just call Joan Martin Elementary School second-grader Luke Bailey.
Using his imagination, Luke created a house that has a refrigerator that will not only show you what's in it but will text a parent if you're out of milk or eggs.
He put a windmill on top of the house using the wind to turn the blades and generate electricity. Another room has a lamp that turns on and off when you enter or leave the room and he created windows that will open themselves when the glass pane senses a cool breeze outside. He's still designing the front door.
Luke is one of 80 youngsters from the School City of Hobart and across Northwest Indiana who are participating in Camp Invention this year, a nationally recognized nonprofit summer enrichment camp program. The weeklong program is being held at schools across Northwest Indiana this summer. The program at Joan Martin was designed for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
Other schools hosting the program are Kolling Elementary School, St. John; Johnston Elementary School, Highland; Liberty Elementary School, Chesterton; Discovery Charter School, Porter; Morgan Township Elementary School, Valparaiso; Lincoln Elementary School, Cedar Lake; Lowell Middle School, Lowell; Highland Christian School, Highland; St. Paul's Lutheran School, Munster; and Andrean High School, Merrillville.
Using hands-on activities, Camp Invention promotes science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, learning. It builds resourcefulness and problem-solving skills and encourages entrepreneurship, according to a news release.
Joan Martin teacher Suzanne Hathaway is the camp director and is assisted by Beth York, another Joan Martin teacher. This is the seventh year for the camp at the elementary school.
Hathaway said there are four areas the campers focus on during the summer. They are called optibot (where students work with a small self-driving robot that moves as it senses changes in light; robotic pet vet (where students test and nurse a robotic pet back to health); mod my mini mansion (where students dream up and design their own futuristic smart home filled with technology and gadgets) and stick to it (where campers can freely invent whatever they want, or craft solutions to real-world challenges).
Past camp participants, along with high school students and parents, volunteer to work in the program each summer.
Joan Martin teacher Heather Paulson was working with kindergartners.
"The kids really love this program," she said as she worked with youngsters who closely held on to robotic puppies which were running and squeaking around the classroom.
"The dogs are sick and the kids have to test them to figure out what's wrong. The kids did a urine test and a blood test and found out the dogs have a virus," Paulson said. "Now they are making collars and more leashes for their pets."
First-grader Jace Richardson said his dog is better now after recovering from the virus. "I call my dog, 'Puppy Wuppy,'" the youngster said.
Hobart Middle School sixth-grader Leandra Kelly and Ridgeview Elementary School fifth-grader Emily Bond were working with a group of girls who had several small self-driving robots.
The girls created a track for the robotic cars to follow using a black marker to make thick black lines as well as a roundabout for the robotic cars to follow.
Leandra has been attending the camps since she was in second grade.
"I'm learning a lot about how robots work and how the sensors work. We've also done some of this during the school year in Project Lead the Way classes," she said.
Emily said she understands it as a result of her classes at school and because her father is a union electrician and he's taught her some things about robots. "We do a lot of experiments and some science. There's a lot of back science in calculating the thickness of the lines that these robotic cars follow," she said.
Parent Melissa Aguilar-Prieto, whose son Noah Prieto is in his third year at the camp, said she enjoys volunteering to work with the students each year. Noah is a Joan Martin fifth-grader.
"This gives the kids the opportunity to use their imagination," she said. "They go to school all year and learn math and English. Now, they are able to think outside the box, creating something they've seen on TV or read about."