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Building bright futures at the YMCA’s 25th Thingamajig Convention

Working as a Team to Inspire the Next Generation of Doers

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.

Photos from the 2019 YMCA Thingamajig Invention Convention

Getting Our Hands Dirty During a Day of Learning and Exploration
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Getting Our Hands Dirty During a Day of Learning and Exploration
Throughout the day, Perfect Sense employees ran a hands-on bike building activity teaching children about wheels, brakes, handlebars, pedals and how they all work together.
YMCA Counselors Guide and Inspire
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YMCA Counselors Guide and Inspire
Inventors worked closely with YMCA camp counselors on their inventions to get valuable guidance and support.
Working as a Team to Inspire the Next Generation of Doers
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Working as a Team to Inspire the Next Generation of Doers
Matthew Wardian, Brightspot Program Manager, works with a group of young boys and teaches them how to properly align and attach the handlebars.
iCanPlay Challenge Lets Kids Design Toys and Games for the Future
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iCanPlay Challenge Lets Kids Design Toys and Games for the Future
From 3D goggles to a fun-filled castles, children's imaginations ran wild at the 2019 YMCA Thingamajig Invention Convention.
Inventors Inspire with Their Compassion
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Inventors Inspire with Their Compassion
Alexa Fox learns more about the purpose of and inspiration behind the "Pet Spa" invention.
Incredible Robots on Display
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Incredible Robots on Display
Children were challenged to design an amazing robot that performs a task that helps to make the world better.
Inventors Get Imaginative to Help Pets
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Inventors Get Imaginative to Help Pets
A team of inventors show off their innovative "Pet Spa" in the Pet Exerciser challenge.
Designing Apps to Solve Bigger Problems
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Designing Apps to Solve Bigger Problems
Aiming to help the endangered sea turtle, Kelsey designed an app to make people more aware of harmful effects of plastics.
Children's Creativity On Display at 2019 YMCA Thingamajig
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Children's Creativity On Display at 2019 YMCA Thingamajig
Heather Sledd, a software engineer at Perfect Sense, talks with children about their invention.
Young Inventors Learn to Build Bikes
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Young Inventors Learn to Build Bikes
Perfect Sense employees worked closely with children from YMCA branches throughout the DC metropolitan area and taught them how to build bicycles.
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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.


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