Nine years ago, Landri Drude was born at 3.5 pounds with respiratory issues, and doctors warned her parents, Andrew and Alana, that she may experience development issues growing up. That may be the only time in her young life that science was wrong for her.
Dressed in a white lab coat with goggles resting atop her head, Protsman Elementary third-grader Landri, who refers to herself as "the science chick," is in great health and parades through life celebrating her love of science and inventing. She even named her fish Einstein.
"I just love science," Drude said. "I feel like there's not as many women in science as men, but they have been such a big part of inventing and making a big difference. Kids need to learn about them."
For the last two years, Drude has been a part of the nationally recognized summer enrichment camp, Camp Invention, a program backed by the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
This May, after winning a video contest, she will participate in the Inventors Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and rub shoulders with likes of inventors Shuji Nakamura (LED blue light), Jaap Haartsen (Bluetooth), Kristina Johnson (polariztion) and Steven Sasson (digital camera), to name a few.
"I'm so excited, because Einstein has a blue light in his tank and he loves it," said Landri. "It's so cool that I'm going to be meeting the guy that invented it."
Drude credits her drive and passion for science to the encouragement she receives from her science teacher, Susan Thomas.
"Miss Thomas has always been supportive and helping me with science opportunities," Drude said. "She's the one that told me about Camp Invention."
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For 25 years, Camp Invention has encouraged nearly 2 million students, teachers, parents and independent inventors to develop their science, technology and entrepreneurial drive.
"Landri is a phenomenal student," Thomas said. "Her love of science is great and her drive is amazing. Anything she does, she is going to succeed, because she knows what she wants to do and is exceptionally focused."
Drude thinks Camp Invention has helped her realize there are many young people like her who appreciate science and technology.
"Sometimes, I feel a bit left out or that I don't belong, because I just love science," Drude said. "At Camp Invention, everybody loves science, and I can be myself."
Drude is also a softball player and is proud to be part of the Lego Robotics team.
Her mother, Alana, an 11th-grade English teacher at Homewood-Flossmor High School, said her daughter has done better at adapting and feeling more comfortable "in her own skin" because of the encouragement and support of family, friends and her school community.
"As a teacher, I can appreciate when another educator plays a positive role in your child's life," Alana Drude said. "Being a kid can be difficult, and it really does take role-models to make a difference. We are grateful for Miss Thomas and the support we get from Protsman."