MTSU welcomes young inventors to 20th Invention Co...

MTSU welcomes young inventors to 20th Invention Convention

Fourth-graders, their teachers and family members set up their projects during the 2012 Invention Convention in MTSU’s Murphy Center Feb. 20. (MTSU photos by Andy Heidt)

Hundreds of supportive teachers and parents from across middle Tennessee gathered in MTSU’s Murphy Center Feb. 23 to support an impressive group of bright and dedicated young inventors.

The 2012 Invention Convention marked its 20-year milestone by showcasing approximately 238 inventions by 479 students. Inventions came from public-and private-school students in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades from several counties surrounding MTSU.

The young inventors selected to represent their grades and schools worked either individually or in small teams to create projects featured in the categories of “Games” or “Make Life Easier.”

A few of the projects intended to “Make Life Easier” included Joshua Wolbert’s “Candy Stress Eraser,” Katie Creech and Azura Haley’s “No Hands Handy Pad,” Colleen Thurmond’s “Toothpast-inator” and Makiah Prince, Keely Hicks and Chelsea Henry’s ‘Keep it Klean Shoe Kling. ’”

Hailey Johnson, the sixth-grade inventor of “Drink on the Go,” a helpful creation designed to keep a drink from tipping over while the user is pushing a shopping cart, said her decision to enter the competition was easy.

“When my teacher told me about it, it sounded really fun!” she enthused, adding that she was “really proud to be here.”

Melissa Poarch, right, gives her daughter, McFadden Elementary fifth-grader Julia Poarch, and her partner, Aislyn Welch, left, last-minute pointers on their presentation for their invention “Dog Gone Doggie Door Opener” during the 2012 Invention Convention at MTSU’s Murphy Center Feb. 20.

Inventions presented in the “Games” category included Christy McLaughlin’s “Time Traveler”; Jackie Ottinger, Isabella Magana, Ashleigh Green and McKenzie Carlton’s “Haunting in Hawaii”; Trey White’s “Even Smart People Walk the Plank”; Seth Filson and Nicholas Hunter’s “The Present Finder’; and Addy Pratt and Kathryn Schmittou’s “Awesome Adjectives.”

Every project featured a visual presentation as well as a working model demonstration by the inventors for judges and visitors.

“I’m so proud of you. You are an inventor. You’ve taken the time to think and create, problem-solve and literally create something that wasn’t here before you made it,” Dr. Tracey Huddleston, founder of MTSU’s Invention Convention and a professor of elementary and special education at the University, said in welcoming the youngsters.

“I also want to challenge you today to go beyond this invention, to continue to think and problem solve and create and dream and continue to make this world a better place. In your hands is our future.”

John Dwyer, news anchor and reporter for the ABC affiliate WKRN-TV in Nashville, was the event’s guest speaker. He told the young inventors that his favorite invention is the hot-air popcorn popper because it eliminated the potentially dangerous hot oil previously used to make the tasty treat.

Dwyer also encouraged the young people to continue inventing and working together to reach goals because “not trying is failure.”

Each participating inventor left the convention a winner with a certificate of participation and a gift of this year’s selected “feature invention,” tubes of ChapStick lip balm, invented in the early 1880s by a Virginia physician.

Alexander Hagerman, left, and Ben Brashear, fifth-graders at Castle Heights Elementary School in Lebanon, Tenn., play their game, “Conquer the Fort,” during the 2012 Invention Convention in Murphy Center.

Judges also awarded selected students with first-, second- and third-place trophies as well as additional awards. Those included:

  • the State Farm Excellence Award, which acknowledges excellence in all required aspects of the competition;
  • the Group Champion Award, a medal presented to the group that exhibits the most cooperative teamwork in design and presentation;
  • the Individual Champion Award, a medal given to the individual who exhibits the most creativity and ingenuity;
  • the Best Presentation Award, a ribbon for the student or students  with the most outstanding presentation skills; and
  • the Judges’ Favorite Award, a ribbon presented to the student or students who, in addition to meeting all requirements, provide a memorable and unique invention.

The schools represented by the talented young inventors included Byars Dowdy Elementary, Castle Heights Elementary, Cheatham Park Elementary, Coles Ferry Elementary, Coopertown Middle, Discovery School at Reeves Rogers, East Middle, East Robertson Elementary, George A. Whitten Elementary, Greenbrier Elementary, Guild Elementary, Heritage Elementary, Jo Byrns Elementary, Knox Doss at Drakes Creek, McFadden School of Excellence, Middle Tennessee Christian, Millersville Elementary, New Union Elementary, Northside Elementary, Sam Houston Elementary, Scales Elementary, St. Henry, St. Paul the Apostle, T.W. Hunter Middle, Union STEM & Demonstration Center, Unity School, Walter J. Baird Middle, Watuga Elementary, Westside Elementary, White House Elementary and Winfree Bryant Middle.

The event was sponsored by State Farm insurance.

For more information on the Invention Convention, including the contest rules, visit or contact Huddleston at You also can watch a video about the 2012 event below.

— Lauren Price (