For over 30 years, Camp Invention® has been turning curious kids into capable creators, offering an environment where young innovators exercise creative problem solving, grow their confidence and collaborate with other campers. This high-energy STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) camp, designed for grades K-6, sparks inspiration and often paves the way for a future in innovation. While Mark Leschinsky, a patented inventor, got his start at a very young age, Camp Invention helped to fuel his interest in STEM, inspire his ideas and motivate his passion for inventing new and better ways to help people.
An Aptitude for Invention
As far back as Mark can remember, his creative wheels were spinning, always thinking of what could be invented to make life better. “I started when I was 3 or 4 years old,” Mark shared in an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame®. “My family was in a store, and it was raining. I wanted to get to the car without getting rained on, and I thought, ‘Can you make a retractable umbrella that comes out of the car and travels with you as you walk to the car?’ Obviously, this wouldn’t work, but that really got me thinking about new ways to solve problems.”
This was just the start of Mark’s ingenuity. He was only 8 years old when he got the idea for what would become his first patented invention. As the Ebola epidemic began in late 2013, he recalls being at a coffee shop with his father when he saw the news of the virus on TV. “At the time, I didn’t understand what was going on, or even what the Ebola epidemic was,” he said. “But I was very intrigued by this, and I wanted to know more.”
After researching this virus and learning that healthcare workers were risking their lives for patients, Mark knew he wanted to help. Recognizing that existing hazmat suits were disposable and could transfer the virus when removed, he developed a self-disinfecting hazmat suit. His invention functions using a multilayer air-pressure compression system that pumps disinfecting solution throughout the suit, killing germs before its removal. While he continues to make improvements and adaptations, he earned a patent for this invention at the age of 10 in 2016.
Building Skills at Camp Invention
When Mark attended Camp Invention at age 10, he certainly had more inventive experience than the average fifth grader. Even so, he attributes his time at camp to what gave him his start and motivated him to continue pursuing invention. He recalls valuable camp experiences, from reverse engineering a boombox so he could discover how speakers work, to collaborating on designing new products and finding new uses for existing ones.
When asked about what skills and traits he developed at camp, he said, “Design thinking, confidence and persistence in particular. Collaboration is also key. I learned how to not give up, and to be confident in what I was doing. So many of these skills I now use in my life.”
He also was intrigued by the creative problem-solving aspect of the experience, and especially the prototyping process. “Camp really sparked creative problem solving where you take something that’s not supposed to be used anymore, like a plastic bottle or a plastic bag, which are both great threats to the environment, and learn how to use them for the better,” he explained.
As a whole, Camp Invention helped Mark to advance his skill set and inclination toward STEM and creativity through fun, hands-on challenges, providing a foundation for his career and setting him up to thrive in the future.
“It was a tremendous learning experience, going through the process of creating something from start to finish,” he said. “From the ideation stage to prototyping and tinkering and seeing what works and what doesn’t, to the final revision stage, and then creating something at the end.”
When asked what else has contributed to his enduring interest in STEM, he noted the support of his two younger siblings, both of whom also have participated in Camp Invention. “I think my brother Gary and my sister Barbara, are always very encouraging,” he said. “All of us like to see how we can be creative and solve problems, so I think that in our own different experiences, with our different traits and personalities, we’re able to invent things and support each other. The teamwork is really powerful.”
Now heading into his senior year of high school, Mark’s innovative spirit, as well as his desire to help others, have stuck with him. In the spring of 2022, he founded the Student World Impact Film Festival (SWIFF), highlighting the work of emerging storytellers from marginalized communities. “I’ve been able to branch off in other fields where creativity is applicable, and solutions can be created to help address existing problems,” he shared. “Film, most people think, is different from inventing. But what connects them is creativity – approaching new problems and thinking of new ways to do things.”
Finding many film festivals’ barrier to entry to be too high, he set out to establish his own cost-free festival, amplifying the voices of young creators and providing a platform for them to break into the film industry.
In its first 10 months, SWIFF received over 15,000 film submissions from 130 countries.
Mark’s future is undoubtedly bright as he continues running his global film festival, working on his first patented invention and pursuing STEM to tackle big challenges — all before finishing high school. As he attests, his remarkable journey started when he was just a curious kid who fell in love with learning and found his start at Camp Invention.
“I really owe it to Camp Invention and to the National Inventors Hall of Fame for the programs you organize,” he said. “I believe that early on, I was able to develop that mindset of being creative, solving problems and addressing challenges in new ways. Camp Invention gave me my beginning and it propelled me to use inventing as a way of positively impacting our society. And it has served me ever since.”
Experience the Difference Camp Invention Can Make for Your Child
To learn more about this summer’s all-new Camp Invention program, check out our website!