Saturday, July 14th, 2007
By Shelley Grieshop
Kids build creations, their minds at Camp Inquire
  The thrill rides were malfunctioning and body parts were falling everywhere.
Thankfully, the scene was a classroom of gifted students, not an amusement park, and the patrons were nothing more than colorful K'NEX construction toys.
The noise level, however, reached the same pitch as a group of free-falling roller coaster riders as one of the teams of Camp Inquire students got their battery-powered "boom ride" to work on Friday - the third day of the project.
"We did it!" two of the youngsters cried out with arms flung high in the air.
The fourth- to sixth-grade children from area school districts were kept busy all week at Wright State University-Lake Campus. Camp Inquire, in its 26th year, is held annually for five weeks during the summer months. The students choose from topics such as chess, dancing, crafts, kites, insects and space exploration.
In room 224, youths in teacher Abby Fourman's class were learning how to put together and operate simple and complex machines. The afternoon class was assigned to build amusement rides.
"It's a lot of problem solving. I hear a lot, 'Hey, this doesn't work, what should I do?'" Fourman said. "They learn to follow directions and improvise, especially when there are missing parts."
The students were divided into three teams and each given a K'NEX "thrill ride" kit, complete with power pack. Friday was the last day for the teams to successfully turn 522 tiny, plastic pieces into a boom ride, a ferris wheel and a spin ride.
Shortly after the boom ride began to whip it's tiny toy riders into the air, the power pack dropped to the table - almost as low as the children's jaws. Several of the "little people" fell from their seats; arms and legs went flying.
"The people keep falling apart. They've been played with too much," said Fourman, as she raised an eyebrow at her students.
The team of ferris wheel builders struggled most of the afternoon getting their 3-foot tall wonder to stand straight.
"The support beam is crumbling," hollered one of the boys as the rest of his team scrambled to keep the giant wheel from falling.
Team three also had problems. Their spin ride - although powered up and working - was lopsided and the ride patrons were getting smacked onto the table at each turn.
"Ouch, ouch, ouch," Fourman said with a grin, as each toy occupant struck.
Soon it was back to the drawing board for the all-girl team except one little blonde who had a different idea.
"Let's just keep it this way and call it a 'bumpy' spin ride," she said with a laugh.
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