By DEVIN WEEKS
COEUR d’ALENE — More than 200 young Idaho inventors are preparing their gizmos and gadgetry for the 30th annual North Idaho Regional Invention Convention, coming to the Silver Lake Mall next weekend.
First- through 12th-graders from Moscow to the Canadian border will have their innovative ideas and creations on display for judges to review. The projects fall into five categories: working models, non-working models, adaptations, gadgets and games and Jules Verne, a special category for projects that aren't possible now but could be in the future.
Judges spend hours reviewing the documentation, imagination and research of the inventions. Awards are based on category and age group.
"The program is experiencing exponential growth throughout the state," state coordinator Beth Brubaker said Friday. "Idaho had one of the highest percentages of major award winners to number of attendees at the 2019 National Invention Convention last year, including best prototype which was won by Quinn Holt from Coeur d'Alene as well as the Global Change Award, which was won by Katherine Barney from STEM Charter Academy."
Formerly Invent Idaho, Brubaker explained that the program is rebranding back to its original name of Idaho Invention Convention. The program celebrates its 30th year this year.
The Coeur d'Alene event is one of three regional competitions that qualify students for the state finals, which will be held at the University of Idaho in Moscow in March. Best of show and best of category winners receive science kit awards, as well as an invitation to “pitch” their invention at the University of Idaho’s Engineering EXPO. Top inventors will be invited to the National Invention Convention at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.
"Our ultimate goal is to develop a mindset within our young students for creative problem-solving as a way of life,” said North Idaho Regional coordinator Jennifer Hammond. "Just the way they think, thinking outside the box, seeing problems and finding solutions. And it might not be the first time around; it might be a process."
Hammond said this kind of program is empowering for students and propels the future of American innovation.
“It shares a vision — where all learners have access to innovation, invention and entrepreneurial learning to gain the confidence and skills to control their own destiny," she said.
The public is invited to view the projects from noon to close Saturday and all day Sunday. The awards ceremony will be held Sunday at 3 p.m.
The Silver Lake Mall is at 200 W. Hanley Ave., Coeur d'Alene.