Flint, MI—More than 100 students from Genesee County schools gathered at Flint’s Kettering University to present their inventions at a fair for young innovators.
Guided by a slogan of “no kernel left behind,” a team of three sixth graders from Perry Innovation Center in Grand Blanc, Mich., shared their “Kernel Catcher,” whichfilters out kernels from popcorn.
Vanden Terbush, one of the Perry team members, said the group had designed several iterations of the Kernel Catcher until finalizing it for the fair.
“It’s been very rewarding because at first, I was thinking ‘I’m never gonna get into Kettering,’” Vanden said of the invention’s trial-and-error process.
His teammate Michael Weirauch said he felt fortunate to be part of the project.
“I feel really lucky to be working with my team, and I feel proud,” the sixth grader told Flint Beat.
On March 7, 2023, the 100K Ideas/Kettering University Young Innovators Fair featured the inventions of 136students in third through eighth grades.
The students are part of Kettering’s Young Innovator Program, which helps schools get young people involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) opportunities, according to a press release from the university.
Jason Vallimont, a teacher at Perry Innovation Center, commended his team of Kernel Catcher inventors.
“They did a fantastic job,” Vallimont said. “They started off with problem-finding in their journey and as part of that, they went through a couple ideas. Watching movies and eating popcorn was one of their favorite things to do. So, they were looking upon trying to improve getting more actual popcorn that they can eat and not stuff their hand in a bunch of kernels.”
The Young Innovator Program is facilitated by Flint-based nonprofit 100K Ideas. Vivian Williams, community engagement coordinator at 100K Ideas, said the program aims to foster students’ analytical skills.
“We’re thinking about their critical thinking and how are we empowering them to problem solve, for them to feel comfortable to say that, ‘I don’t really know if I want to make this into a business, but I definitely need to solve this problem,” Williams said.
For Gracie Nyholm, her cat Theodore’s litter-spreading was the problem to solve in her family’s home. So, the fourth grader at Myers Elementary School in Grand Blanc created “The Cat Car Wash” to help address the issue.
“My problem is the cat gets litter everywhere when he comes out of the litter box,” Gracie said. “I made an invention so that when he comes out, it will get the litter off his feet and there won’t be any more litter on the carpet.”
She said she was “a little bit nervous” to be presenting at the fair, but at the same time, it was an exciting experience.
“I get a chance to show what I made to other people,” Gracie said.
The first section of the invention consists of dusters, which helps remove loose litter, she explained, and a second set of fiber dusters then work to get litter out of the cat’s toes. Then, paint rollers and baby bottle cleaners would rid the side of the feet of litter, Gracie said.
Her mother Lindsey Nyholm, a teacher at Myers Elementary School, said she was proud of Gracie for her cat-focused creation.
“She did everything herself and I love just the creative ideas and this is a real problem in our house that we’re trying to solve, so it’s very helpful too,” Nyholm said. “It’s been a fun process to watch as well.”
Gracie, as well as the group that invented the Kernel Catcher, were among 36 students at the fair selected to advance to the April 29, 2023 Invention Convention Michigan at The Henry Ford Museum, a statewide competition for young inventors.
Nicholas is Flint Beat’s public health and education reporter. He joins the team as he graduates from Santa Clara University, Calif. Nicholas has previously reported on dementia and brain health, as...
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