For over three decades, Camp Invention® has helped curious kids evolve into innovative thinkers as they develop essential skills and traits that unlock their creative potential. Campers in grades K-6 grow confidence and persistence through exciting, hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) challenges, collaborating with friends to bring their big ideas to life.
Camp Invention has sparked the love of learning for budding innovators across the country, including camp alumna Barbara Leschinsky, a young author with a passion for helping others and creating new things.
Discovering a Spirit of Ingenuity
As far back as Barbara can remember, she has enjoyed the problem solving and creative aspects of STEM. “When I was little, I loved chemistry and being able to mix things together to make something new,” Barbara shared in an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame®. “I think being introduced to making things in this way has helped my drive with STEM. Creating new things is a lot of fun, and I hope to be able to do it more.”
Barbara, who is now 14, has always had a passion for creating, inventing and finding solutions for challenges in life. At just 7 years old, she developed the Hamster Helmet, an innovative answer for snacking and multitasking – particularly when riding a bike.
“My dad takes the whole family bike riding frequently, and it was irritating to stop every 10 minutes for one of us to have something to eat,” Barbara explained. “This sparked the idea for the Hamster Helmet. You can eat and bike at the same time, not having to stop every time you’re hungry. I think this invention could be useful for others who enjoy biking and want to have snacks accessible to them on the go.”
Making Connections at Camp Invention
As Barbara heads into high school, she can still vividly recall when she first attended Camp Invention in the third grade. “I met a lot of other people who share the same passions as me, and it was really fun to be able to work with them, building skills like collaboration and creative thinking,” she said.
Like so many other young learners, Barbara believes Camp Invention offered her a foundation of creativity and problem solving in an atmosphere that allowed her to make new friends and connect with campers like herself.
“It was nice to work together to find uses for common objects, making inventions out of ordinary things and celebrating when we completed challenges,” she shared. “Camp Invention taught me that everyone has to equally share their ideas in order for whatever we’re making to work and be the best it can be.”
Publishing Creative Stories
While Barbara enjoys making new discoveries in STEM, she also likes exploring the humanities and finding other ways to express herself and make a difference.
Inspired by her pet bunny, Beanie, she has published a book series called “The Adventures of Mighty Beanie.” The series features titles such as “Healthy Cooking With Beanie,” “Beanie the Rabbit Teaches Children About Money” and “How Beanie the Rabbit Beat the Virus.”
When asked how she determines the content of her books, Barbara said she chooses topics she feels are important for young people, like healthy eating and managing money. While these themes are introduced in school, Barbara set out to talk about them in a simple, enjoyable way kids her age can understand. She presents the concepts in a relatable, fun manner and believes that Beanie the bunny helps convey her message. “I wanted to make the books something that young kids could read and grasp,” said Barbara. “I think Beanie helps them relate to what he’s teaching.”
Sharing Advice for Fellow Curious Kids
When asked what she would tell this year’s Camp Invention participants, Barbara’s advice was simple: “I think that the most important thing is to have fun,” she said.
When it comes to pursuing STEM beyond Camp Invention, she believes kids should lean into what they love, discovering the subjects that excite them and continuing to pursue those.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve your goals,” Barbara said. “Follow the things you’re passionate about.”