Tennessee students take STEM to the next level
The student union ballroom was buzzing. Not with Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) students, but with more than 600 elementary and middle school students from across TN.
The students were competing in the 25th annual, regional Invention Convention. There was excited chatter from the creative and bright students. Their goal was to invent items to “make life easier” or a new game.
They proudly described their 341 inventions for the judges. Each was hoping to win a ribbon or trophy. Or best of all, advance to the National Invention Convention in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Tracey Huddleston is the woman behind this annual competition. She is an elementary education professor at MTSU. The program is her public service project for the university. It all began back in 1993 as a tribute to her mother, Tru Radcliff. Mrs. Radcliff was a long-time 5th grade teacher.
Long before STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) became popular, both women understood the importance of creativity and problem-solving skills.
In the first year, only 56 students and 42 inventions competed. Since then, thousands of students have benefited from the experience during the past 25 years, 20 of which have been supported by State Farm™.
"Participating in the Invention Convention provides a meaningful opportunity for students. They must apply many academic and practical skills," says Dr. Huddleston. "In addition to creating and designing, they must communicate and present clearly to the judges in order to win an award."
The anticipation of hearing the judges' final decisions builds as the morning wears on. Each year, guest speakers help ease the wait for the students, their teachers and parents.
Three singers and songwriters spoke this year (the competition took place in February 2017). In past years, astronauts, athletes, historians, inventors, and scientists have spoken to the crowds.
“The students who participate in the annual Invention Convention are truly an inspiration," Huddleston says. "Their excitement and passion for thinking and learning is a joy to watch – they are our future!”