Owen Thomas, a 5-year-old Sanborn native, has been honored with a national award as a “Top-Kindergartener” for inventing a new board game that encourages people to get off their screens and do some exercises.
Thomas competed against kindergartners from across the country who were judged as part of this year’s U.S. National Invention Convention, a K-12 competition that challenges students to develop innovative ideas. His oversized board game called “Get Moving” generated enough votes to earn Thomas the top prize for his age group.
Thomas adopted a simple approach when entering the competition: “Think of a problem and then think of an invention that can solve that problem,” he said.
His invention aimed to solve what he saw as an issue - people spending too much time in front of television and computer screens and not enough time out exercising.
“People don’t exercise a lot,” he said.
His game encourages players to perform exercises similar to those he has done as a member of the Niagara-Wheatfield Athletics Association.
“(I was on) a wrestling team,” he said. “We ran in circles, (did) front flips, drop steps (and) bear crawls.”
The game also includes push-ups and jumping jacks.
After receiving WNYIC’s K-3 Inventor of the Year, Thomas qualified for the Nationals and his video was reviewed by judges who had 450 inventions to inspect. Like the WNYIC, different categories included top age-group winners, as well as awards like the Aerospace Award.
Owen’s father, Adam Thomas, said Owen had many decisions to make along the way.
“He had to decide on what materials to use and whether he wanted to make a board game or something more interactive,” Thomas said. “He decided to do a bigger board game.”
This year was different than years previous for WNYIC. Starting in 2015, the non-profit had required school events as a prerequisite to enter the regional contests it organized. Also this year, each school could award more than the allotted 15 submissions. Still, participation was low.
Miriam Kelley, director of education and outreach for WNYIC, said normally 150 students could be expected to turn in their inventions for the regional competition. This year, the number was only 40 kids.
“As a result of the pandemic, we called this Invention Convention “Adapt and Innovate.” Everybody did their inventions at home,” Kelley said. “So, far far less teacher interaction. It made it a really interesting event this year.”
As for Owen, he said he plans to continue inventing for the simple reason that it gives him joy.
“(I invent) because you get to make stuff,” he said.
Owen’s parents helped him put together a video for the WNY Invention Convention. The video can be seen on YouTube at “Owen T- Invention Submission.”