DAVIDSON – Using recycled materials and parts from broken equipment, young inventors built working “pinbug” machines to challenge their parents to a nature-themed game of pinball.

Seeing the potential for new, creative treasures out of what others would consider trash is what Camp Invention is all about. Students in first through sixth grade participated in the camp June 16-19 at Davidson Elementary, though other locations offering it this summer are Huntersville Elementary, JV Washam Elementary in Cornelius and Rocky River Elementary in Mooresville. Mountain Island Lake Academy also recently held its camp.

Youngsters participated in several science, technology, engineering and math related activities that inspire creativity, as was the intention when the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation's Invent Now Kids started the camp in 1990.

“Hopefully the skills we instilled in them, they will use the rest of their lives,” said Davidson Elementary Camp Invention Director Denise Addison. “We hope we ignited a fire inside of them they didn’t know they had.”

Lyndsay Dalton led Design Studio, which was a favorite among campers. They tinkered with circuits to turn on lights, alarms and make toy cars move, plus learned about inventors in the Inventors Hall of Fame. With Katie Berlin, students designed vehicles that could go on land, air or water. Mica Alexander drew a vehicle that is meant to help the military.

Kate Saussele said she couldn’t come up with her favorite part of camp because she liked it all. Some of her most memorable activities were the circuits and watching colors on paper blur together as it spun as part of an exercise on sight.

Teacher Shari Rawls helped students learn about their senses through games. In one, they represented parts of the ear and passed balls to show how sound traveled. They made bionic arms for touch. Alexander also made bionic hearing aids. They also made ziplines to signify the brain transmitting messages and put hexagonal nuts in balloons to sound like a helicopter.

But the largest project was the pinbug machine.

“A lot of them didn’t know what pinball was,” Rawls joked. “We had to show them pictures.”

They used cardboard for the board, but for targets, they used items from things they reverse engineered like computer parts and old sprinkler heads.

Addison said at the start of every Camp Invention, they reverse engineer something to find new uses for the materials ­– a true form of upcycling.

“It’s great to see things used over again,” Addison said. “It allows them to be able to look at something and think they can make something out of that.”

Throughout their project they use items from the recycle room, a closet filled with random objects like old cardboard, buttons, pompoms and other reusable materials.

For her pinbug machine, Jordan Griffin used part of a computer and other items, which she said showed how you “don’t have to waste any more and don’t have to spend money. You can just use scraps.”

Carly Coupal was very excited to show off her pinbug machine, demonstrating how to pull back the lever to push the pingpong ball toward the targets. To win jackpot, players of her game had to hit pieces of an old sprinkler and an old CD player.

This is her second year attending camp, but she said this year was even better. “I like to make up things, and I think I had better ideas this year since I’m older.”