Murdock Elementary Students Engineer 42 Inventions

Murdock Elementary School students pitch their Calming Crate invention during the school’s 2017 Invention Convention February 15.

As rain pours down from the night sky, trying to juggle car keys, a flashlight and an umbrella can be challenging. A group of Murdock Elementary School students designed a solution.

Thousands of people fall at home every month and have to call 911 for help. Three Murdock students decided that number is too high and set out to engineer a portable pull-up bar to help those people who are most vulnerable to a fall.
Motivated by their classmate’s mom who had a back injury, another group of Murdock students created the Cart Climber to help move loads of laundry up and down stairs.

About 120 Murdock fourth and fifth grade Target students shared their invention prototypes during Murdock Elementary’s 2017 Invention Convention. Target is the Cobb County School District’s accelerated learning program for gifted students.

“The students have been investigating real-world problems,” said Sarah Covington, Murdock Target teacher. “They kept journals of problems they noticed around them. After noticing problems in the community, they got together and shared ideas and formed common interest groups for problems they were interested in.”

As the students moved through the engineer design process, the students studied about engineers and kept notes about the invention process including their blue prints and research about similar inventions available in the marketplace.

During the Invention Convention, poster boards with information about the students’ prototypes lined the tables of the cafeteria. Using catchy jingles and harmonized marketing spiels, the students pitched their inventions to parents and other visitors.

“As an engineer myself, it is exciting to see some of the things that the kids have come up with [at the Invention Convention],” said Dan Zendzian, whose sons Ryan and Gavin participated in the Murdock event. “It is exciting to see that they are doing this in elementary school. I didn’t really get into anything close to this until high school or college even. It is quite a head start for what the kids are getting compared to what I saw growing up.”

Following in his dad’s footsteps, one son invented a skimmer to pull out and chop leaves from a pond. Zendzian’s other son designed a new type of fly swatter.

“They were really excited that I was able to see the work they have put in over the last couple of weeks on these projects and [that they were] able to show it off to Dad and the rest of the parents,” Zendzian added.

Another Murdock parent Rashmi Sharma liked the teamwork aspect of the invention project because she thinks the students feed off the energy of one another and shy students are encouraged to share their ideas too.

“It gives me such hope that [students so] small are putting up all these projects, and some of the projects are so good,” said Sharma, whose fifth grade son Neal helped design the Pulley-Uppy to help people who fall and need help getting up. “It gives me such hope for the future that their minds are working in that way. This is the future, the next generation, and it makes me so happy that they are doing such great work already.”

Fifth grader Matthew also liked being part of a team. As his team worked through design problems for the Cart Climber, Matthew learned how to better communicate with his classmates. He also learned “three brains are better than one.”

Along with the other teams of junior engineers, Matthew and his teammates pitched their invention to the Murdock Invention Convention judges.

Two of the judges won the 2016 People’s Choice award at the InVenture Prize competition at Georgia Tech. The Georgia Tech students visited with the Murdock students earlier in the school year to talk about how they went through the engineer design process to develop a solution for clean drinking water for those less privileged in India.

The judges used the Georgia Tech InVenture Prize criteria to grade the Murdock students’ inventions on marketability, practicality, usefulness, creativity, teamwork, evidence of prototyping and paten-searches.

“On March 15, our top two teams will have the opportunity to take their inventions to Georgia Tech to compete among 80 plus other elementary schools in Georgia,” Covington said.

The students behind Team Gadget are headed to Georgia Tech with their first prize ribbon from Murdock’s Invention Convention. Their invention connects a laser pointer to a smartboard so teachers can write and click buttons on the board with the laser pointer, which also doubles as a computer mouse.

The judges awarded second place to Team A.B.C.D. for their design of the “The Happy Caddy,” which helps organize bathrooms.

Although they are not headed to Georgia Tech, Team On-The-Go-Organizer won the People’s Choice award for their hanging file system designed to help students stay organized at school.

“We hope our students will be problem solvers and innovative thinkers,” said Covington. “We hope they will go out and look at problems and know they can take ownership to look for solutions for the problems.”