Since 1990, Camp Invention® has provided an inspired environment for kids in grades K-6 to exercise creative problem solving, grow their confidence and collaborate with friends. Campers build the mindset of an innovator, unlocking their creative potential through hands-on, open-ended STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) challenges.
Read on for our conversation with Camp Invention alumnus Gary Leschinsky, now 15 years old, who has grown into a confident creator with an aptitude for problem solving, playing chess and inventing.
An Innovative Spirit and a Desire to Help
From the moment Gary first learned about world-changing inventors and innovations, he became enamored with STEM. “I was maybe 6 or 7 when I learned about inventions like the lightbulb, the computer and other impactful innovations,” Gary shared in an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame®. “I realized how powerful having motivation to solve a problem is, and that’s sort of what STEM is – the discovery of real-world applications and ways to make life more convenient.”
When Gary was in third grade, he set out to address a challenge faced by millions of people around the world – severe, sometimes life-threatening, allergies. At just 8 years old, he invented the Allergy Watch, or “A Watch” for short. Gary, like so many others, suffers from food allergies and knows how dangerous they can be. “Quick identification [of an allergic reaction] is very important, especially in children when they’re not at home with a parent or guardian to intervene,” said Gary.
After identifying and researching the challenge, he was determined to invent something that could help. The A Watch is a watch-like detection, notification and management device equipped with a motion detector and a physiological sensor to measure heart rate, skin color changes, oxygen saturation and blood pressure to detect an allergic reaction. Equipped with a subject locator and GPS, the system notifies an emergency contact – like the caregiver of a child – when the wearer is experiencing these symptoms. The device is exceptionally valuable for young children and differently abled individuals who might not be able to communicate that they are experiencing a reaction.
When asked about his goals for the invention, Gary excitedly stated, “Hopefully the watch will be able to help children across the world, just like me, who have food allergies.” He received a patent for his invention from the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 2019.
A Creative Problem-Solving Path
While Gary had a strong foundation in creative problem solving and design thinking before he attended Camp Invention, he acknowledges that the program provided the ideal atmosphere for expanding his inventive mindset and offered him space to practice persistence and collaborate with his peers.
Gary attended camp when he was 9 years old. “Camp Invention was a really great experience for me in many ways, one of which was the collaboration,” he explained. “It was a great social experience to meet like-minded individuals who were around the same age as me, who were also interested in science, engineering and other related subjects. Camp was critical for me in developing some of my STEM knowledge through fun challenges and friendly competitions.”
While his innate excitement for knowledge has provided him a thrilling and successful path, he credits his time at Camp Invention with the spark that ignited his love of learning. “It was really instrumental in my inventing and problem-solving journey,” Gary expressed.
A Passion for STEM Meets a Love of the Humanities
When it comes to topics outside of STEM, Gary has a unique perspective. While he has a clear inclination toward technology and engineering, he also loves to read, write poems and play chess. He believes that traditional science and social sciences are connected, and they’re not only incredibly valuable, but they employ a similar kind of mindset too.
“When you’re writing or doing any humanities-related activity, what you’re trying to do is solve a problem, to find a way to communicate ideas,” Gary said. “These various forms of communication are working to spread important ideas and trying to help others, similar to STEM. I view them all as outlets to problem solving.”
I would suggest that all campers who attend Camp Invention really try to get the most out of the experience. It’s extremely fun, innovative, collaborative and for me, vital to who I am today.
Whether he’s inventing, writing, reading or playing chess, Gary has a strong passion for finding solutions, expressing himself and helping others. When asked what advice he would give to future attendees, his response was simple but powerful – “I would suggest that all campers who attend Camp Invention really try to get the most out of the experience. It’s extremely fun, innovative, collaborative and for me, vital to who I am today.”