Hidden in the hills surrounding Lake of the Ozarks sits a unique campus designed and dedicated to the enrichment of young minds. A ribbon cutting on June 21st officially opened the newest building on the Sinquefield Invention Campus at Lake of the Ozarks Scout Reservation near Laurie. Blacksmithing and welding are the latest skills to be added to woodworking, computer graphics, 3-D printing, laser engraving, and more.

Hidden in the hills surrounding Lake of the Ozarks sits a unique campus designed and dedicated to the enrichment of young minds. A ribbon cutting on June 21st officially opened the newest building on the Sinquefield Invention Campus at Lake of the Ozarks Scout Reservation near Laurie. Blacksmithing and welding are the latest skills to be added to woodworking, computer graphics, 3-D printing, laser engraving, and more.

The mission of the Invention Campus is to use hands-on training in new technologies as well as older industrial arts such as blacksmithing to foster problem-solving skills, creativity, and imagination in a team environment. An Electronics Lab can accommodate a large number of students at multiple stations. A separate building is home to a woodworking shop with equipment capable of producing very sophisticated products, including laser engraving for sign-making.

The Sinquefield Invention Campus is the only one like it in the United States. It became possible through the vision and philanthropy of Dr. Jeanne Sinquefield, long associated with scouting. She began 30 years ago as a den mother for her son’s Scout troop. Both mother and sons grew with the program as her boys advanced through the ranks of scouting in Los Angeles. Her involvement has remained strong, culminating in her philanthropic gifts to scouting and creation of the visionary Invention Campus.

When Dr. Sinquefield spoke to Lake Sun, she explained that it all started with a chess set. Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield were instrumental in creating support for the game of chess through the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. In 2008, Rex devoted himself to the game and center as a retirement project.
Jeanne brought scouting and chess together when she created Chess 2 Go, a portable chess set that can be stored in a small round bag for campers and backpackers. Its weight is so light that outdoorsmen are not forced to choose between chess and a meal. However, the set presented unique production challenges. Pieces are flat and laser-cut with an image to depict the correct function for it and to provide a round hole for the spindle that will organize all pieces inside a bag.

Jeanne knew where she could turn for imagination and expertise in solving the production challenges. She had seen the benefit of involving young scouts and in doing so, foster their entrepreneurial spirit and invention skills in a setting where technology is a tool of the imagination. With the help of a Scout Master and a Young Life Scout with whom she had worked in California, Jeanne brought their expertise and her vision together at the Sinquefield farm in Missouri. The resulting company, Chess 2 Go, became a hit, providing numerous Scout troops and others with portable chess sets and providing college funding for one Young Life Scout entrepreneur.

This project planted seeds for Jeanne’s next visionary endeavor. She wondered what other young minds could accomplish with state-of-the-art technology and the freedom to imagine if one young scout could launch a successful small business using a simple kitchen table for meetings, design, and execution.

Jeanne quickly points out that a successful invention is more than a single item laying on a shop bench. “An invention isn’t done until there is a salable product,” according to Jeanne Sinquefield. Design, engineering, and marketing all have to be in place.

Dr. Sinquefield’s vision of a laboratory with the newest technology and enough mentors that each budding inventor could find encouragement, advice, and support when needed became the Sinquefield Invention Lab, an enrichment opportunity beyond STEM training in schools. Jeanne notes that school STEM programs are important, but they have real-world limitations, including a shortage of expensive equipment in many classrooms and only one teacher to guide a classroom full of inquiring minds.

Invention Scouts is a co-ed program for young men and women between ages 11 and 21, and participants become members of an Invention Team. Parents and adult advisors aid the team as they determine their invention focus which can be in fields as diverse as fashion or bio-medical fields. The general structure of the Invention Scout program includes skills such as electronics, robotics, computer guided equipment, software, and programming languages. The teamwork component includes leadership, delegation, and project planning.

The program fosters creativity as the invention team solves problems with new invention ideas, improves existing products, and enters invention competitions. In addition, they practice ethical behavior as they develop business plans. They also solve production, marketing, and sales challenges for new inventions. Furthermore, participants perform community service by teaching others to be inventors and inventing things that help others.

For an Invention Lab, Jeanne first had two trailers built. They were designed by Eagle Scouts to serve as mobile invention labs, and they continue to be used throughout the Great Rivers Council in Central and Northeast Missouri. Although the Invention Campus in Laurie is the permanent home for these trailers, they move from site to site through the year. Fitted with 3-D printers and other high-tech equipment, the work space inside looks more like a modern apartment space--interesting and inviting.

Soon, it became clear to Jeanne that the Invention Scout concept would better serve more scouts with a fixed campus. The Great Rivers Council in Missouri with the 450-acre Lake of the Ozarks Scout Reservation provided the perfect setting to bring Jeanne’s vision to reality. With Sinquefield’s philanthropic funding, the first and only Invention Campus sits on a bluff overlooking the 44-mile marker on the Lake of the Ozarks.

Jeanne Sinquefield’s vision and philanthropy has now provided three buildings on the Invention Campus and filled them with the equipment and tools that serve several thousand young people each year. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination. A scout can combine the Computer Aided Design (CAD) program with the three-dimensional printer and complete a merit badge in sculpture. Another can use the Epilog Laser and complete a merit badge in wood carving. In fact, a total of 14 new merit badges can be earned using the Invention Campus equipment.

The campus sparks imagination and fosters growth for a lifetime, according to Jeanne Sinquefield. With the fixed campus, the trailers are now free to be used throughout the 33 counties of the Great Rivers Council in central and northeast Missouri. The trailers are not limited to Scout functions, however. This year every middle school student in Versailles, Missouri will be introduced to the wonders inside the invention lab trailers.

On the scout reservation, the newest campus building is a fully equipped Blacksmith Shop capable of accommodating a dozen or more students at a time. The instructor, Justin Tattitch, has spent his entire adult life blacksmithing, including a few years operating his own blacksmith shop in Columbia.

In 2014, the Chief Ranger at the Laurie Scout reservation invited Tattitch to teach the blacksmith class. He continues as the instructor, in part because he enjoys seeing his students’ eyes light up “when they realize that they are ... [using] a skill they had only seen on TV....” He says he witnesses the pride as a student creates something from a hand-forged piece of steel with his own hands, skill, and heat. Tattitch believes “it is always important for kids...to have an appreciation for earlier artforms, their progress through history, and their usefulness today. What I can see,” he says, “is a greater appreciation for working with their hands and craftsmanship...and the improvement in their self-confidence.”

Blacksmithing has been practiced since around 1500 B.C. In the early centuries a man who could work the magic of the forge and pull glowing tools and weapons out of the fire and smoke could sit at the side of the king. Blacksmithing carried the cachet of alchemy, and the smith enjoyed high regard. As the world changed, the smith’s position of power diminished. The industrial revolution brought factories capable of producing hundreds of metal plows or swords in a day, rendering the hand-made pieces of the smith’s anvil and hammer obsolete.

The current picture of a blacksmith at the forge is based mostly on TV westerns where the smith hammers out horseshoes or repairs wagon wheels. However, the ancient blacksmithing arts have the same power to ignite young minds as the electronics labs, and the same lessons of creativity, teamwork, craftsmanship, and accomplishment that can be taught in more high-tech environments. Toward that end, the great River Council will host an Invention Jamboree 2019, September 13 - 15. The Jamboree will be open to those from all councils in the United States, but participation is limited to 500 attendees. Registration can be completed online done at www.bsa-grc.org and are open now through July 29 for registration cost of $35. In August, registration increases to $40.