For over three decades, Camp Invention® has inspired K-6 kids across the country, providing an energetic atmosphere full of creativity and hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning. This experience is oftentimes one that influences kids long after camp is over, like Jaden Stock, a recent college graduate who attended the program for six summers as a child. To this day, he attributes his time at Camp Invention to being a defining part of his life, providing him with critical skills and igniting a lifelong spark of curiosity and learning.
Finding His Place at Camp Invention
Stock, now 25, attended Camp Invention from 2004-09, receiving an attendance award for participating in camp from kindergarten through sixth grade. “Camp Invention was easily one of the most enjoyable parts of my childhood,” Stock shared in an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame®. “I’ve always been interested in technology, especially since I grew up in a time where it was mid-acceleration.” As Stock credits his mother with being an encouraging force behind his passion for STEM subjects, he also recalled how Camp Invention helped foster his curiosity, offering an environment to learn crucial social skills through collaboration and critical thinking by building inventions and completing fun challenges.
While camp helped to cultivate his excitement for problem solving and creative thinking, Stock recounted feeling supported and included each time he attended camp. As a neurodivergent student, he still feels strongly that Camp Invention created a healthy space for him to be his authentic self. “Camp Invention was the only time in my childhood where I could go there and be happy and fun and creative and free, and nobody bothered me for it,” Stock said. By valuing the variety of experiences and perspectives brought by children from diverse backgrounds, Camp Invention strives to establish a welcoming and anxiety-reducing atmosphere for every kind of kid, a unique experience that Stock participated in and carries with him to this day.
Making Connections Beyond Camp Invention
Despite Stock’s time at Camp Invention being nearly 15 years ago, he acknowledges the ways in which the experience transformed his thinking and propelled him into his future. With a bachelor of fine arts degree in game design and development from University of Wisconsin-Stout, he can look back fondly and relate the influence that camp has had on his academic journey and earning his degree. “Camp Invention taught me a lot about creative thinking, and getting my bachelor’s in fine arts required a lot of creative, outside-of-the-box thinking,” Stock said. “One year at camp, we had to make our own board game – easily my favorite thing I ever did at camp. I remember I used an old ‘Sorry’ gameboard and I sculpted my own game pieces out of modeling clay. It turns out, using makeshift supplies to prototype games … that’s just how game design is done,” he explained. “In my freshman design course, we had to make a board game, and I called on a lot of instincts from camp. We started prototyping and it took me back to being at Camp Invention all those years ago.”
Looking back on the impact Camp Invention has had on his academic career, Stock recognizes the value of this powerful hands-on STEM program he was a part of for so many years. “There’s so much from camp that I learned that helps to guide my viewpoint of ‘How do I make this all fit together and give the outcome I want it to?’”
A Future in the Video Gaming Industry
As Stock looks ahead, his dream is to work in the game design industry, whether as an artist, a writer or on a design team – any position in which he is creatively working on making games. “I just want to use my degree to make fun games,” Stock said. “I want people to play a game that I’ve helped make and I want them to feel like the game truly touched their heart. I want to make a game that’s fun and charming and in 10 or 20 years, people look back on it and consider it a classic. I want people to have as much fun playing the games I make as I do when I play other peoples’ games.”
He is currently working on an indie game of his own, one that he hopes to have out by 2026. “It’s called ‘Space Cadet Agency,’” he described. “It’s a game where you work at a dispatching office for a galactic superhero agency. It’s part of a series I’ve been wanting to make for a long time now.”
With a clear passion for game design and excitement for creativity, Stock advises future Camp Invention campers to “Think outside the box. When you’re facing a challenge, look at it from every possible angle you could overcome it, and honestly, pick an option that seems fun. Focus on how creative you can be and don’t hold back.”
Share Your Camp Invention Story
Did Camp Invention have a profound impact on you or your family? We would love to hear your story! Share it with us here.