Happy camper

Duke places third after inventing a germ collector for YMCA’s Thingamajig competition


ORANGE PARK – An 8-year-old YMCA camper won third place in a unique invention competition with more than 100 participants.

It was the YMCA’s sixth annual Thingamajig Invention competition at its summer camp and campers had to work around new procedures as a result of COVID-19 to create their invention this year. Grayson Duke, 8, capitalized on the current pandemic by creating a third-place winning invention that captures and kills germs.

“I didn’t expect to win,” Duke said. “I was so excited when I found out that I had placed. I got a ribbon and everything. I got lucky that day.”

What Duke invented was a germ collector. It was a device that attracts germs to it, much in the same way a flower attracts bees to it. Once the germs were sucked in, a special set of pills at the bottom killed the germs.

This year was Duke’s third or fourth time at the camp, he said, and despite new restrictions related to the coronavirus, he still had a blast. He said that while things were different, he had just as much fun as every other year before it. Instead of field trips and pool time, he and friends worked on STEM projects in the Orange Park Dye-Clay YMCA multipurpose room and participated in outdoor activities in the woods just a few yards off from the YMCA property.

It was thanks to YMCA sponsors Chemours, VySTar, Jacksonville Electric Authority and Navy Federal that hundreds of campers across the Northeast region of Florida were able to attend camp as they normally would and compete in the Thingamajig competition.

The competition, otherwise known as the annual Presidential Challenge, took place on July 20-21.

“Their challenge was to invent a device to help stay germ free,” YMCA Clay County Youth Development Program Director Kyle Vinduska said. “They could use recyclables and other supplies from around camp like newspaper, toilet paper, tape and rubber bands.”

Twenty YMCAs competed this year from Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties, and the results of the competition were posted on July 24. Before Grayson heard his name, he already knew he was the highest-finisher from Dye-Clay.

“What we did was on Friday, the day they released the results, we gathered everybody up [socially distanced],” Vinduska said. “We played the video for each person that placed and when Grayson’s face popped up, the reaction was priceless. He’s participated before but this was the first year he placed so it was super exciting for him.”

Grayson’s dad, George Duke, said he wasn’t surprised. His son’s always had a knack for inventing things.

“To have one of our campers place that high was really special for all of us,” Vinduska said.


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