Grant helps Kettering University Young Innovators Program spread love of science

This year, for the fifth year, Kettering University is preparing a way for more than 100 young inventors to brainstorm, plan and present their ideas and inventions to the community. 

Although the Young Innovators Program has been in Genesee County since 2000, it was the passion of Sarah Perkins, lead cooperative education manager at Kettering, back in 2013 that kept the program operating and inspiring fourth, fifth and sixth grade students to think outside the box.

“It encourages students to be problem solvers, creative thinkers, researchers, technical writers, scientists and evaluators,” Perkins said. “It’s a great opportunity to introduce young students to STEM and careers in STEM. It’s a lot of fun.”

Each year, Kettering invites young inventors ages 9-13 to display their inventions at the Young Innovators Fair on campus. The innovators present their inventions to peers, educators and other attendees at the fair. 

Community support is a big factor in allowing Young Innovators to continue year to year. Recently the program received a $3,000 grant from the Stella & Frederick Loeb Charitable Trust fund through The Huntington Private Bank in Flint.

“The Trustees of the Stella and Frederick Loeb Trust are thrilled to be a longtime supporter of such a great program. The trusts’ purpose includes enriching the lives of our youth and encouraging our next generation to use their entrepreneur skills to do great things,” said Anne Carey, Assistant Vice President at The Huntington National Bank. Grant helps Kettering University Young Inventors Program spread love of science

Funding like the grant from the Stella and Frederick Loeb Trust is used to provide transportation for the students and teachers, lunch and needed supplies for the students to prepare and present their inventions.

“It gives the students an opportunity they might not have otherwise,” Perkins said. “The students would not be able to participate without the assistance of the grant money.”

The next Young Innovators Fair will come to Kettering’s campus on May 1. Genesee County students will flood into the International Room in Kettering’s campus center eager to show off what they invented, showcasing their data and research on display boards, which are donated by Landaal Packaging in Flint.

Throughout the day students will interact with Kettering students and faculty and explore a bit of Kettering’s campus and participate hands-on STEM workshops. 

“It gets them excited about STEM. It opens up their minds. I think having the opportunity to come here to Kettering opened their eyes to what a STEM university had to offer. Some students don’t even think about college but then they get to step foot on a college campus and learn from other inventors who come to speak with them,” Perkins said. “They are little professionals during the fair. They are so proud to talk about their invention to absolute strangers. When they present their invention it helps with their communication skills, among other skills.” 

Sarah Perkins and her daughter, Paige.
Sarah Perkins and her daughter, Paige.

The Young Inventors Program, now called Young Innovators, originated in Minneapolis and has a rich history of offering invention curriculum, resources and special events. The Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce and Genesee Intermediate School District offered the program to the students of Genesee County from 2000-2012. In 2013, Kettering University agreed to adopt this program as a part of the university's mission to be engaged in the Flint community as well as provide pre-college opportunities for students of all ages to gain exposure to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The program integrates the core curriculum areas (Science, Language Arts, Mathematics and Social Studies) and applies them to real world problems to be solved, akin to the co-operative education model that Kettering University embodies.

Perkins had first-hand knowledge of the event when her daughter, Paige, participated in fourth and fifth grade and knew she wanted to see it continue at Kettering.

“As a parent what I liked was that it was very hands-on learning about STEM. It got the student to think outside the box,” Perkins said.

Students could modify a simple household item that already exist, invent something completely knew or find a solution to a problem. While at Kettering they also participated in two hands-on workshops that include activities such as assembling airplanes with LEGOs, DNA cheek swabs, making slime, or a balloon challenge quest, among others.

“The biggest thing is to get students introduced to STEM at the early education level,” Perkins said.