Middle school students from around the Mid-Columbia were challenged this week at “Inventor’s Camp,” a hands-on science and technology camp introduced by Oregon State University and hosted by the OSU Extension Service of Wasco County and Columbia Gorge Community College.

“This is the first invention camp ever,” said Edith Velasco, camp name “Echo,” one of four OSU students leading the campers in a variety of challenges during the week-long program.

On Wednesday, students started out making “duct tape” inventions (a wallet) and during the afternoon built a solar-powered car.

“We’re teaching how things work, and taking them through the invention process,” Velasco said.

“Mostly, we try to get them to be okay with failing. Inventions almost never work at first. You have to overcome obstacles, and fail, and keep going.”

There had already been plenty of failures by Wednesday, she noted. “We did chemical cars on Monday, and they struggled. They failed. But they had a lot of fun!”

The camp is also used to advocate past-secondary education for young students, Velasco said. “I’m the first in my family to go to college, and I try to let kids know that it is something that could happen to them, if they want to go to college, even if they are poor.”

The program, which is free, is offered to students through the local extension service. Ann Harris, who oversees the program locally as the OSU Open Campus coordinator, said the camp was developed by OSU students, who developed the activities and served as camp counselors.

“I’m pleased that we were able to bring the camp here,” she added. “They have been traveling around the state to offer this new camp, making this a big investment on the part of the university,” Harris said. “We hope that it will be offered year after year.”

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