Young visionaries participating in the Camp Invention summer program at Oak Ridge School of Leadership, Environmental and Health Sciences got the chance to share their own innovative ideas alongside a hall of fame inventor.
Dr. Sumita Mitra, well known for her inventions that have advanced the dental care industry, toured Oak Ridge and shared her story with curious students about how science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) shaped her life. Dr. Mitra was born and studied in India, and earned her Ph.D at the University of Michigan. She was a longtime chemical engineer at 3M in Saint Paul.
At last count, Dr. Mitra said there were about 99 different inventions on her resume. Most notably, her invention of nanocomposite dental materials is used in dental offices across the world. This technology allows dentists to restore the quality of decaying or broken teeth. For example, it is used to create dental fillings, dental implants and other composites. This invention earned her a spot in the National Inventors Hall of Fame earlier this year.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t see a lot of women in this industry, but that just made me work that much harder,” she told students.
During her tour of Oak Ridge, Dr. Mitra talked with students about their time at the camp, which included building miniature robots, working with lights and sensors and learning about binary codes. Dr. Mitra also shared her praises of Camp Invention and its long history in District 196.
For the last 11 years, District 196 has hosted Camp Invention, which provides kids the opportunity to engage in deep problem-solving, critical thinking and team work while getting them excited about STEM concepts. This summer, there are 300 students at three sites across the district.
“Camp Invention inspires teachers and students to think outside the box,” said Marisa Schroht, District 196 Community Education Youth Services coordinator. “Participants learn how to work together and understand that failing the first time doesn’t mean that the challenge is over. We encourage them to continue trying until the find a solution. Instructors learn about how much they impact the participants through the week, by letting them have their space and create their ideas.”