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Meet Zoe McDowell: A Passionate Leader Inspiring Young Innovators

Each summer across the country, Camp Invention® inspires young innovators to grow into capable creators through hands-on, confidence-boosting experiences. Designed for kids in grades K-6, this one-of-a-kind STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) camp unlocks creativity and promotes collaboration with high-energy challenges and open-ended adventures.

Camp Invention is led by dedicated local educators with the assistance of exuberant young leaders known as Leadership Interns. These high school and college students volunteer their time to encourage and empower campers. We recently had the privilege of sitting down with Zoe McDowell, a former Leadership Intern, to learn about her journey of boldly stepping up and making a difference with kids in her community.


Inspiring Creative Kids and Building Valuable Leadership Skills

Zoe, now 17 years old, first served as a Leadership Intern following her junior year of high school. In speaking about her experience, she fondly recalls it being her first major leadership role. “I worked with kids from kindergarten to sixth grade, and we’d go over concepts like gravity – building things hands-on so the kids could see it, and then we would play games to teach them about it,” Zoe shared in an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame®. “They had so many creative ideas, and they were interested in everything we did. I didn’t have to ask them to engage – they all wanted to.”

Zoe’s efforts as a Leadership Intern exceeded all expectations. Working with all grade levels of campers, she remembers connecting with them by sharing many of her own experiences. “They’re all very curious. They built mini skate parks and had little skateboards they would push around. Since I skateboard, I brought in my skateboard one day, showed them pictures and taught them how to use it, which they loved,” she expressed.

Camp Invention connects learning and discovery to unlock children’s creative potential through immersive experiences. The Leadership Intern role not only fosters these same qualities, but also provides an unmatched opportunity for young adults to grow valuable leadership skills. “I had to step up myself and see what I could do to make a difference, which also helped my confidence,” Zoe said. “Even if I was unsure, I had to project a positive, self-assured attitude.”


Fostering a Lifelong Love of STEM

Long before Zoe stepped into the Camp Invention program, she had developed excitement for STEM subjects. “I’ve always been a STEM girl,” she remarked. From participating in the nationwide Science Olympiad for five years to working as a math tutor for kids, Zoe has felt constantly supported by her family to pursue STEM subjects, both in school and in her extracurricular activities.

As she looks toward her future in her senior year of high school, Zoe plans to attend college, and she hopes to conduct undergraduate research. “It’s always been an interest for me to be a part of experiments of any kind,” said Zoe. “I’m not really picky about the subject. It could be anatomy. It could be social science. It could be anything – I just want to be involved with research.”


Encouraging the Next Group of Leadership Interns

Zoe shared the value this opportunity provided in preparing her for future aspirations. “Camp Invention taught me self-sufficiency. I learned to advocate for myself, making things happen when there wasn’t someone telling me what to do,” she said. “The experience challenged me to be able to see a need and make it happen without asking, being less timid, asserting myself, putting myself out there and making a difference. I have carried that through into my future in school.”

As for advice for young leaders thinking about the Leadership Intern program, Zoe expressed her encouragement. “Absolutely do it! It was such a meaningful experience. Even halfway through the first day, I knew that I was happy here and I’m really glad I made this decision.”


Do You Have a Camp Invention Story of Your Own?

Did Camp Invention have a profound impact on your child? We would love to hear their story! Share it with us here.

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