Back to Blog
Behind the NIHF Scenes

Maria-Teresa Correll’s Inspiring Camp Invention Journey

When Maria-Teresa Correll first learned about Camp Invention® in 2016, she immediately knew this nationwide K-6 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) summer camp was an experience her children Claire and Matthew would enjoy.

“We lived in Maryland at the time and my husband was in the Army, and we were getting ready to move from Maryland to Washington state,” Correll said in an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame®. When her children joined in creative, hands-on challenges at their local Camp Invention program, Correll said, “They came home and showed me their inventions and were so excited telling me about them!”

Later that fall, the family moved to Steilacoom, Washington, but soon learned there wasn’t a Camp Invention program near their new school.

“What do you mean there’s no Camp Invention?” Correll recalled her children saying at the time. “We have to do Camp Invention!”


Advocating for Invention Education

Correll spoke with the principal of Cherrydale Primary School and was able to bring the program to the Steilacoom Historical School District during the summer of 2017. Serving as a Camp Parent, Correll supported the Camp Invention Director in promoting the program and recruiting teachers.

As a PTA member, she promoted the program at meetings and science fairs, and she helped raise scholarship money through local fundraising initiatives.

These efforts continued year after year, and in 2021, when her district needed a new Camp Invention Director, Correll stepped into the role – a position she holds to this day.

“This past year was my third year as Director and we had 82 campers, which was the largest we’ve ever had,” Correll said. “We grew from a small group into a program that has an Assistant Director, four Instructors, eight Leaders-in-Training and 12 Leadership Interns.

Growing From Campers to Leadership Interns

Claire and Matthew, now in eighth and 10th grade, respectively, have participated in Camp Invention since 2016. Today, both volunteer as Leadership Interns at their local Camp Invention program and enjoy supporting younger participants.

“I really enjoy helping the kids out and seeing how creative they can get,” Matthew said in an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

As Leadership Interns, Claire and Matthew receive valuable experience working in a classroom environment, develop leadership skills and have the opportunity to earn 40 volunteer or service hours.

Both recommend the program to students their age – especially those who like helping kids and are interested in STEM subjects.

“If you like kids, do it, and if you like science, do it,” Claire said in an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame. “It’s pretty awesome to see that they can comprehend all of the content. We learned about patents one year, and it was cool that second graders were learning about them. Watching the gears in their brain shift is just an amazing thing to see.”


Promoting Teamwork and Perseverance

Over the years, Correll has appreciated how Camp Invention’s hands-on curricula change from year to year, and that the experiences continue to excite and engage students who have many different interests.

Additionally, she values how the program creates environments where students feel safe to take risks and collaborate with one another.

“This camp shows them that everyone can work together — it's not just a boy thing, and it's not just a girl thing. They can work side by side and through teamwork, come together and work on their group projects and encourage each other,” Correll said.

This sense of encouragement and perseverance is instilled in all Camp Invention programs through lessons from National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees. These great inventors, who often spend many years iterating on their ideas before earning a U.S. patent and sending their inventions out into the world, directly influence every Camp Invention experience.

This Inductee influence is particularly inspiring to Matthew, who has learned throughout his time at Camp Invention that it often takes inventors many attempts to achieve their ultimate goal.

“I learned that inventors don't get it on the first try,” Matthew said. “Sometimes it takes thousands of tries before they succeed.”


Share Your Story With Us

Have you had a positive experience with one of our National Inventors Hall of Fame education programs? Contact us today for a chance to be featured in an article like this one!

Related Articles