On a breezy beautiful Thursday in July, twenty-eight students, aged 5 to 13, tumbled out of a bus into the mammoth Prince George Equestrian Center for the 21st Annual YMCA Thingamajig convention. If they seemed a little awestruck, there was good reason.  Inside, the scene was a giant kaleidoscope of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities, active fitness play, creative eco art, children’s gardening and a huge display of student inventions. The two weeks of “Thingamajig Camp” that the twenty-eight students were part of, YFS provides free of charge at two of its community centers. The campers produce more than cardboard inventions and brightly painted fantasy creations. They open a world of creativity and innovation that help students consider STEM skills in the future.

In the big hall of the Equestrian Center there were aviation simulators and drones flying overhead.  The US Patent and Trademark Office mascot, a giant furry trademark sign named “T Markey” welcomed everyone to an exhibit of invention patents and familiar trademarks.   The YFS students took on one challenge after another as they worked their way around the setting.  Finally, they arrived at the invention display where every child searched the aisles for a creation they had researched, assembled and submitted for consideration by community  members who volunteered to be judges.

One of this year’s on-the-spot design challenges was to create a tool or product for the community’s senior citizens.  Another challenge focused on engineering a cardboard chair that could hold at least 150 lbs.

After lunch—that gave kids opportunities to make healthy choices—the center stage came alive with student performances that showcased singing, dancing, and instrumental pieces.  Each act got a standing ovation.

Finally, winners were announced.  When the winners’ names were read, the YFS camp heard that three of their own inventors had won honors. Vivian Encinias, 5, Yair Aguillar, 9 and Byron Lucas, 10 (pictured to the right) were all recognized.  At the end of this long and active day, the YFS students still raised a mighty cheer and sent their winners to the stage to receive prizes.