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School of Engineering to host
Connecticut's young inventors
(March 22, 1999)

Looking for inspiration? A glimpse into the future of Connecticut industry? Then don't miss the Connecticut Invention Convention, an event that encourages school children in grades K-12 to design and develop innovative inventions.

For the first time in its 16-year history, the convention will be held at the UConn, on Saturday, March 27, at Gampel Pavilion. This spring event culminates a program begun each fall in more than 100 Connecticut schools.

Long before the statewide convention each year, participating schools stage their own local invention competitions. The winners then go on to compete at the state convention in the spring. This year, an estimated 600 students, representing 90 Connecticut schools, will participate in the statewide competition. Nearly 200 awards will be presented to the top contenders.

"This event instills in our young people a sense of great excitement about the creative process," said Amir Faghri, dean of the School of Engineering, which is hosting the state convention. "They become immersed in identifying a need, designing and developing a model invention, and demonstrating the invention's features. Their creativity will produce great technological dividends for Connecticut in the years ahead."

The March 27 program begins at 8:30 a.m. with registration, and opening ceremonies start at 10 a.m. An awards ceremony at 4:15 p.m. concludes the day's events. In addition to viewing invention exhibits, the expected 2,000 attendees will have the opportunity to tour the campus, visit School of Engineering booths, and hear short addresses from invited speakers.

The speakers include NASA engineer Robert Braun, who will speak briefly about his work on the unmanned space mission to Mars, and WVIT-TV30 meteorologist Brad Field, who will discuss weather prediction. John Cassidy, senior vice president of United Technologies Corporation, will deliver the keynote address.

Charles Baumgartner of GE Industrial Systems, president of the Connecticut Invention Convention, says "I am always amazed at the creativity inherent in children. Our program is designed to bring all aspects of a school's curriculum and this creativity together, applying both to a real-life problem. Through calculation, trial and error, and hard hands-on work, the student eventually overcomes the problem, learning in the process. Our aim is to enhance a student's overall problem solving abilities, and develop skill sets that can be carried throughout life."

Many past competitors have gone on to receive patents for their efforts or have been invited to attend the Young Inventors Conference, a national competition.

"I look forward to seeing the creativity of Connecticut's students first-hand. These up-and-coming inventors will define and solve the problems of the future," says Erling Murtha-Smith, associate dean of undergraduate education for the School of Engineering.

Ramesh Malla, an associate professor of civil engineering and a member of the Connecticut Invention Convention board of directors, says "One of our goals is to make students aware of engineering from the very beginnings of their academic careers," in hopes of inspiring young people to pursue engineering careers.

The non-profit Connecticut Invention Convention program is run by volunteers and underwritten by grants and in-kind support from community, educational institutions, business and charitable organizations. The 1999 event is cosponsored by the School of Engineering, GE Elfun Society Greater Hartford Chapter, Fleet Financial, United Technologies Corp., Gerber Scientific, and Phoenix Investment Partners. Judges at the statewide convention volunteer from many Connecticut companies and will be available to speak with students about such fields as education, engineering, science, and patent law.

Nan Cooper