A team of 6-year-olds from Notre Dame Academy Elementary School in West L.A. has garnered an international prize with their clever idea for preserving plants – and the insects that feed on them. This spring the team took the top prize in the ages 5-7 division of the Smithsonian-Cricket Media 5th Annual Spark! Lab Invent It Challenge.
In this international contest, students had to identify a global health issue and create an invention to help address it based on the contest’s “Think It, Explore It, Sketch It, Create It, Try It, Tweak It and Sell It” process. Notre Dame Academy was one of eight winners out of 300 entries, which were sent via Power Point presentations and videos to the contest’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Team members Layla, Sebastian, Edie and Alejandro wanted to devise an invention that protected plants from bugs without harming the bugs, and created a device they call the Plant Saver to do this in a natural and safe way.
“The Plant Saver is good because we understand living things and food are important to us,” says Edie. “The plants and bugs get oxygen and they all stay alive.”
The Plant Saver is a large plastic container divided into two parts. One part holds the plant and a battery-operated device that creates sound to scare bugs away from the plant. The sound causes the insects to move into the second part of the device, which has food and water for them. The bugs feast on their own food and water, and leave the plants alone. When the plants are fully grown, they can be removed from the Plant Saver and the bugs can remain unharmed.
“[The Spark! Lab Invent It Challenge] is a great opportunity for the children,” says Notre Dame Sparks Lab advisor and kindergarten teacher Pat Genovese. “It gives them an important opportunity to make a difference in this world now, and can lead them to become future scientists.”