Brightspot employees worked alongside the next generation of innovators this past Thursday at the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington’s 25th Annual Thingamajig Invention Convention. The whimsical name—a mouthful, to say the least—is fitting for this fun-filled event, which aims to inspire local youth to explore pursuits in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
Janice Williams, SVP of Program Development at YMCA Metropolitan Washington, started the program years ago as a way to introduce STEM education to the next generation of doers, and it has since been replicated across the nation in 17 other cities. In an interview for Comcast Newsmakers, Williams said that Thingamajig “is a day that is fully [geared] toward engaging children in STEM with hands-on [activities], as well as an opportunity for us to celebrate our children.”
Leading up to the annual convention, student participants are given a list of 12 possible challenges. This year’s roster included creating robots to help perform everyday tasks, making a new musical instrument, designing a Rube Goldberg contraption, developing a useful app, and even making a “pet exerciser” for a furry loved one. Using recyclable materials, the students are then tasked with constructing visual representations of these contraptions to present at the convention.
For the fifth year, Brightspot continued its support of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington's biggest event of the summer. Employees from the company had the honor of serving as judges for the 2019 competition.
When it came to this year’s inventions, employee favorites included a “Pizzabot,” a fully articulating Infinity Gauntlet inspired by the “Avengers” movie franchise, and a pet spa.
Alexa Fox, a Content Marketing Manager at Brightspot and volunteer, was particularly inspired by an anti-bullying app and its inventor. “I love how these kids, even though they are young, are seeing the issues in their world and thinking out of the box to come up with creative, innovative and inspirational ways to solve them,” said Fox. “They can all teach us something about that.”
The invention competition was just one aspect of the jam-packed day, as businesses from around the area offered hands-on activities and workshops for participants. In past conventions, Brightspot has donated bicycles as grand prizes for winners, but this year we decided to do something a little different.
With the help of volunteers from The Bike Lane, Brightspot employees guided Thingamajig participants in assembling their own bicycles. Over the course of the day, 21 bikes were assembled and then taken home by participants. It was a hands-on learning experience for everyone involved, which made the work even more meaningful.
“This was my favorite part!” remarked Matthew Wardian, a Program Manager at Brightspot. “We had so many kids that came over to help us problem-solve how to put a bike together. Each kid was into the challenge of putting something together and getting their hands dirty doing it.”
The Thingamajig Convention is not only a wonderful way to bring the community together, but it also ignites a passion for STEM-centered learning in the next generation of leaders. By presenting youth with challenges that require imagination, collaboration and problem-solving skills, the annual invention convention continues to spark wide-eyed curiosity in the youngest innovators. At Brightspot, we’re honored to support this enduring summertime tradition.