Design Squad Awards Kids for Trash to Treasure Ingenuity

For three kids, a recent trip to Boston afforded the chance to see their imagined eco-inventions brought to life. Winners of PBS’ Design Squad “Trash to Treasure” competition, the three grand prize winners met the challenge of transforming everyday items from the recycling bin into the “next big thing.”

Lilly's "Sibling Soaker" is a homemade dunking booth made of common household items. Photo: PBS Kids

Launched in celebration of Earth Day 2010 in April, the “Trash to Treasure” contest challenged kids ages 5-19 to spend their summer vacations rethinking everyday waste by recycling, reusing and re-engineering objects into the next green invention.

The “Trash to Treasure” competition is part of Design Squad’s mission to get kids involved in engineering to see how it can make a difference in the world around them.

Inventions needed to fit into one of the three categories: move things or people (Mobility), protect the environment (Environmental), or be used for indoor or outdoor play (Play).

Inventions also needed to be made of at least two repurposed materials such as fabric, paper, plastic, small electronics, springs, batteries, wood, bike parts, rubber bands, cardboard, kitchen gadgets, etc. Kids were given online tools to sketch out their ideas or upload a photo, although they did not need to build their invention in order to enter.

New York sisters, Lilly, 12, and Maryann, 14, made the family proud with two grand prize wins, rounded out by New Jersey teen Daniel, 14. The winning invention included a water saving toilet device, a homemade dunk tank and a bicycle that protects from rain and snow, while also equipped to hold a student’s backpack.

Boston-based design firm Continuum brought the inventions to life, which are set to be featured on a PBS Design Squad spin-off series, aligned with the show’s mission to get kids involved in engineering and see how it can make a difference in the world around them.

“We were amazed with the quality of entries this year,” says Design Squad Executive Producer Marisa Wolsky. “Kids were so innovative in their use of discarded materials to create fun inventions that help the environment and improve their lives. With the help of Continuum, we were able to bring those ideas to life.”

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