WALLINGFORD — Two local families plan to travel to Detroit to attend the National Invention Convention next month, where they will showcase the creations that have carried them through local and national conventions.
Ava Grace Celentano, 10, a fourth-grade student at Fritz Elementary, will bring the Lap Cap — a swimming cap with padding to prevent injuries from collisions — when she travels to Michigan for the convention. Madison Perrone, a fifth-grade student from Parker Farms Elementary, will demonstrate the Quick Pipe Repair – a device that stops pipes from leaking.
Perrone was inspired when she visited her grandparents’ house as they were trying to fix a leaking pipe. She spent months trying out different materials and designs. Once she had a prototype, she created a presentation for the local convention in March.
“She had a bunch of different ideas,” said Tricia Perrone, her mother. “She had things that had to do with wood and clips…foam like something that might help, but eventually she came up with using a necklace with clay, so that formed an envelope that can be used on any domestic pipe.”
This is Perrone’s second time in the pageant, but next month will be his first trip to the national convention. She said the experience inspired her to become a scientist or an engineer. Last year’s invention was the Mask Buddy 3,000 – a face mask insert that prevents glasses from fogging up.
Madison Perrone said she was excited to learn about other inventions from across the country.
“I always think it’s cool to see what other people my age have created,” she said.
Celentano’s idea for a swim cap that reduces the risk of concussion comes from her love for swimming – she attends YMCA swimming lessons – and her experience of sustaining a concussion while in a swimming pool a few years ago.
“I want to protect people’s heads from injury,” she said.
She experimented with a number of designs and materials, such as polystyrene foam, but landed on silicone as the ideal stuffing material for her prototype. She said the experience has already helped her solve problems.
As this will be her first in-person presentation, she is thrilled to see how people react. Some of his friends in swimming class have already said they want Lap Caps.
About 100 children, in grades 3 to 12, attend the Wallingford Invention Convention each year, said Jacqueline Valentine, a teacher and local convention organizer. The event teaches problem solving, science and social skills.
“They do a lot of brainstorming to come up with solutions and then they go into the design process and they really learn to persevere through the process,” Valentine said. “And a lot of them are learning to build and work with materials they don’t know. In many cases, they seek help from their parents and grandparents. And then there’s the whole presentation aspect and they’re developing their public speaking skills.
Wallingford advanced 13 students to the state finals this year, three of whom were recognized for their inventions and two who qualified for nationals. Valentine said they usually have one student going to the national convention every few years, but having two at a time is a record.
“Once in a while we have a student who goes to nationals, but this year it’s pretty awesome that we have two,” she said.
To help families with travel costs to Michigan for the three-day convention, teachers helped create GoFundMe pages with the goal of raising $3,000 each for Celentano and Perrone. While Celentano hit his target, Perrone still had $845 to go on Thursday. A link to his page can be found on the Wallingford Invention Convention Facebook page.
To help achieve their goal, Harry Celentano, Ava’s father, reached out to Jason Zandri, a town councilor and administrator of several Wallingford-centric Facebook pages.
Zandri posted several posts on the forums he runs and offered to match donations, ultimately donating $200.
“For a lot of people, that’s way more than they can ever muster, so I think when we have the opportunity to come together as a city $10, $20 at a time for a good cause, that worth it,” he said.
Some of the donors who spoke with Zandri told her they wanted to support a young girl interested in science and math, while others were inspired by a device that could help prevent head injuries.
“I hate the idea that you have the opportunity to go to a national convention and the only thing stopping you is money,” he said.
Journalist Devin Leith-Yessian can be reached at [email protected]