Emily McCandlish is a problem solver. It was clear from the moment our judges reviewed her contraption that we reached a kid who understood the purpose of the Kootenay Contraption Contest and delivered a contraption that clearly and simply answered the 2020 Kootenay Contraption Question:

“Think about a challenge you’re facing at school or homeschool. Create a contraption to solve this problem so that students/Educators of the future won’t have the same challenge.”

Emily gets distracted when she’s at homeschool, so she created the “Distract Be Gone” hat to help her stay focused on her school work, drown out noises and block distracting screens.

“After three days of continuous talking and drawing her contraption, I was pretty proud of the results she came up with. Emily really got into this competition with a series of revisions to her plan before reaching the final design.  I guess all those enthusiastic late night conversations about her Contraption paid off! We are in the process of building the Distract-Be-Gone for real world testing soon!” said her father, Brad McCandlish.

Emily’s solution-orientated contraption has won her the grand prize bundle donated by Nelson-based business, Phoenix Computers + Technology! Emily has one more distracting screen now because her prize bundle includes a Samsung Galaxy Tab A tablet, Philips bluetooth headset and a Polk Audio waterproof speaker. The GLOWS team hopes if she does build her contraption that she can integrate her new bluetooth headset into her design!

The prize bundle wasn’t the only reward for the eight year old third grade winner! Emily’s “Distract Be Gone” Hat earned her the Inventor Badge through her Nelson Community Girl Guides unit.  We connected with her leader Anne Simonen to find out more. 
“It was a natural connection!” said Simonen. “They have to connect with a female inventor for one step of the badge, and I’m an engineer, so I did some creativity exercises and brainstorming with them, and it was up to them to finish it.”

Contraptions were judged based on the following criteria: if the contraption answered the question, clarity, presentation, creativity, innovation and of course – if the contraption solved the problem.

“What we really appreciated with Emily’s contraption is that she clearly named what her problem was. Not only was her innovative, but she clearly gave it a lot of thought and we could identify that through her explanation. Being distracted is most likely a challenge a lot of students are facing at school or homeschool and we thought the “Distract Be Gone” Hat  solved this problem.” Said Laura Vache, KAST’s Community Engagement Coordinator

Congratulations Emily! Your contraption is a beautiful example of why our team here at KAST is proud to offer Growing and Learning Opportunities With STEAM to the youth in our region. The future is bright!

Anita Vibe Takes Home Prize in New Category for Educators! 

The school bell for recess is an age old symbol for PLAY! Most people remember them as students, waiting and hoping so hard that the time would move faster until…you hear the wonderful sound of that bell. 

As everyone can imagine, schools have changed a lot because of COVID-19 and Anita Vibe won the Educator Prize in the Kootenay Contraption Contest because she identified a challenge to solve: There are too many bells right now at school to ensure a flawless circulation in the hallways.


Anita VibeThe educator category is something new for the Kootenay Contraption Contest. The GLOWS team felt it was essential to include educators because their commitment to enriching education has been inspiring to witness. They are not only adapting their methods in a new and unique world of learning, they are creating innovative strategies, acquiring progressive skills and forging a new pathway for learning during these uncertain times.

We loved that Anita used her surname to name her contraption: “ The VIBEration Bracelet”. What is it exactly? It is a bracelet that every student and teacher could wear. The bracelet would vibrate when recess starts or ends as well as for the lunch break. But more than that, the doors would be automated for this system, allowing everyone to enter or exit through doors without touching them. To avoid having too many people in the bathroom, the bracelet will also change colour and would become green if there is room to enter, red if it’s full!

We really appreciated that Anita clearly mentioned what her challenge was before explaining how her contraption works. Her entry was both innovative and creative.

It’s not Anita’s first year of participation either. She usually sends GLOWS contraptions designed by her students and this year, we are so glad to be able to highlight her! Anita is a Grade Six teacher in Nakusp where she lives with her family that includes three kids. She enjoys learning new things and playing outside, hiking, gardening and skiing. One day she hopes to learn to play an instrument.Thank you Anita for participating this year again with your students, we hope you enjoy your prize of four Arduino Uno’s generously donated by Nelson, BC based tech company SMRT1 Technologies.

GLOWS and the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology would like to thank FortisBC for their ongoing support and title sponsorship of the Kootenay Contraption Contest. Without sponsors like FortisBC it would be very difficult for KAST to continue to offer Growing and Learning Opportunities With STEAM to youth in our region. Thank you!


Meet the other winners of the 2020 Kootenay Contraption Contest!

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