Get ready to “make” summer S.T.E.A.M.-ier!

The YMCA’s annual THINGAMAJIG® INVENTION CONVENTION challenges kids ages 5-14 to show off their “maker” creativity! Thingamajig® offers more than a dozen hands-on challenges designed to spark curiosity and showcase kids’ S.T.E.A.M. skills (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)while they have fun building or simply designing new inventions.

The world needs more innovators and hands-on problem-solvers, so the YMCA makes sure kids everywhere can get in on the action leading up to the actual convention. With both virtual and in-person activities as well as day camps dedicated to creativity, everyone can pick their challenge and create their invention through June and July.

Then, the YMCA invites participants and S.T.E.A.M. fans together for an in-person celebration/convention full of demonstrations and activities at the beginning of August.

Event dates, challenge categories, and rules below.

  • May 17th — July 17th  — Virtual Challenge 
    • Makers across the country get to work building their solutions to a range of challenges (listed below).  Click here for registration and challenge details. The deadline is July 17th at noon.
  • July 23, 25 & 26th  – Expert Review and Feedback
    • A panel of experts from different fields will provide meaningful feedback on each project to keep students active and engaged in STEAM skill-building.  The panel will also pick entries to receive special recognition in each category and overall.
  • July 30th – In-person Invention Convention
    • In person hands-on Science Fair/ Festival at the US Patent and Trade Office give all registered participants to meet experts, try their hands at something new, view demonstrations, work on individual and team challenges, and get inspired to create their next big idea!
      • July 30, 2024 – from 9am–3pm
      • The United States Patent & Trademark Office
      • 600 Dulany Street, Alexandria, VA 22314


  • Action Contraptions —Unleash your creativity and engineering skills to transform an ordinary object into an extraordinary Action Contraption. Be the inventor of a fun and exciting gadget that will bring joy and wonder to those who use it.
  • Helping Hand, Helping Heart —Imagine a world where older adults can lead happier, healthier, and more independent lives. Realizing the needs of seniors, design a new tool or technology that will make their lives better.
  • Home is Essential–Picture a world where no one is left without shelter or warmth. Using your imagination and creativity, design a living space that offers comfort, security and dignity to those individuals or families experiencing homelessness.
  • iCan…Play —Use your imagination and engineering skills to design an inclusive game or toy that ensures children of all abilities can join in the excitement and play safely. Now is your opportunity to create an amazing invention that brings joy and entertainment to everyone, regardless of their abilities.
  • Limb Friendly —Use your imagination and problem-solving skills to design a truly remarkable and useful invention that will help someone missing a limb or in need of assistance. Just think, your invention can make a positive impact on someone’s life.
  • Ready, Set, Zoom —Rev up your creativity and engineering skills in the Ready, Set, Zoom Invention Challenge! Put the laws of motion into action by designing a mobile creation made from recycled materials that can spin, roll, rock, and go.
  • Robot Magic — Whether big or small, let your imagination run wild as you engineer an incredible robot that performs a task to help make the world a better place.
  • Scrap Art — Transform discarded scraps and found objects into a masterpiece of art using your imagination and creative energy. Whether you sculpt it, frame it, or create a mixed media piece, let your creativity shine as you mastermind a unique creation.
  • Shoes, Shoes, New Shoes — Step into the world of foot fashion design. Think outside the box as you put your creativity to the test by designing a new and exciting footwear that puts a fresh and sustainable look to an environmentally friendly shoe.
  • Zero Waste Trashion Fashion — With your passion for fashion mixed with concern for the environment, create a one-of-a-kind piece that not only looks fabulous but also helps protect our planet. Repurpose old fabrics, accessories and other odds and ends into a work of art ready for the runway. Show off your fabulous fashion at this year’s Thingamajig Convention.


  1. Young people can enter the competition as an individual or in a team of no more than 3 individuals.
  2. All participants must be between the ages of 5–14.
  3. You must enter an original invention/project (no manufactured kits accepted).
  4. Use of recycled materials is strongly encouraged.
  5. No more than $20 can be spent on materials for your invention/project.
  6. A log must be created and submitted/uploaded with your final entry.
  7. A display board must be created to illustrate the steps to your invention design.
  8. All Inventions, fashions and talents must be submitted as a part of the student registration via YouTube/photoFailure to provide a video will disqualify you from the competition.  Judging will be virtual using registered items only.
  9. Thingamajig Registration Deadline: FRIDAY, JULY 21, 2023 by midnight.
  10. A series of workshops designed to help understand the invention process and preparation for competition will be offered throughout the month of June-July.  Look out for announced events on the website.
  11. Interviews with Thingamajig Volunteer Judges will be held –  Thursday, July 27th and Friday, July 28, 2023.  Additional information will be sent to everyone eligible to be interviewed for this year’s competition.
Questions? Contact La Shaun Murray at lashaun.murray@ymcadc.org  or 202-290-8321.
Volunteer and partnership opportunities are available!

For sponsorship opportunities, please contact Allison Jones at Allison.Jones@ymcadc.org.