Luna Smith represented the Kidnapi Team at Mission: Invent 2023, which was held on the campus of Andrews University. [Kevin Lembono]
The program champions STEM learning for K-12 Seventh-day Adventist students in the United States and Canada. Launched in fall of 2021, the initiative was made initially possible by a grant from the Versacare Foundation and sponsorships from Adventist colleges, universities and unions in North America. Monica Nudd, director, manages the program with the help of her team.
The ongoing opportunity utilizes a team-based, hands-on learning model that is implemented by participating schools and classrooms. Students begin by identifying a real-world problem, asking family members, friends and trusted adults for input. They are then tasked with creating a solution that employs engineering methodologies and entrepreneurial skills. Once a product has been built, tested and revised, students are invited to showcase their projects to peers at local invention fairs. The process culminates in a national event, which showcases the top inventions or solutions from the regional fairs.
Sara Lopez, teacher of grades 5-8 at West Palm Beach Junior Academy, enthuses, “Our school hosted an Invention Fair—and we loved it! In the past we’ve done traditional science fairs, and my students would just copy experiments they saw on the internet.” She adds, “The Invention Fair is different. The design of the program ensures that students come up with original ideas. It teaches students the engineering design process in a really hands-on and memorable way. It encourages problem solving, creativity, perseverance and teamwork.”
In addition to highlighting teamwork and innovation, one of Nudd’s priorities for the program is accessibility. She and Michael Bryson, engineer at Physics Enterprises at Andrews University, crafted a set of grade-specific curricula, which are made available for free to participating schools. Nudd explains, “This isn’t something that should be cost-prohibitive. You don’t need a 3D printer, or costly robotics or other equipment that some of our smaller schools might not have. We’ve specifically designed this to be something that could be done at a large or small school during science class just one day a week for twelve weeks.”
Carlene Green, a grade 3–5 teacher at Conyers Adventist Academy, reflects, “Students were more engaged with science throughout this entire process. They surprised themselves and each other with creativity. Students who struggled with taking tests were able to achieve success as they applied what they previously learned in different ways and pulled on their various strengths to help their teammates succeed.”
On July 10, 2023, Andrews University hosted a celebration for the winning Mission: Invent teams. After placing at a local level, students and their families were invited to the University to display their projects and participate in an awards ceremony. The 2023 winning project was “Kidnapi,” which was created by Nicolas Solorzano, Luna Smith, Sarah Davis and Corrina Louis from West Palm Beach Junior Academy. All of this year’s participants and their families had the opportunity to tour the Andrews campus, visit the Maker Lab, explore lake Michigan and take part in an educational show that featured professors from the Andrews University STEM Division.
“We are truly proud of our students and exceedingly grateful for the opportunity presented by Mission: Invent,” says Anton Tito Kirindongo from West Palm Beach Junior Academy. “It’s a fantastic program that makes resources available to facilitate new inventions that can enrich the lives of others by God’s grace. Mission: Invent is a wonderful way to share the gospel.”
In the future, Nudd hopes to see continued growth in the program. She encourages students and educators to begin preparing for the 2024 session. The program hopes to rotate through different Adventist universities who have partnered with Andrews to offer a scholarship to high school winners. The awards will be eligible for use at any Adventist University in North America.
Marsha Peters, principal of Conyers Adventist Academy, affirms, “I would absolutely recommend this event to other teachers. It bonded our students together like nothing other than working hard together can do. These are life skills that our students will use in the real world, and I look forward to having them do it again.”
Founded in 1874, Andrews University is a premier institution of higher education for the Seventh-day Adventist Church and offers more than 150 areas of study, including advanced degrees. Its main campus is in Berrien Springs, Michigan, but the University also provides instruction at colleges and universities in more than 25 countries around the world.
Isabella Koh, University Communication writer