Back to Blog
Behind the NIHF Scenes

The Inside Story on Camp Invention From Employees

At the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), we believe in the power of invention education, creativity and hands-on learning – all of which are central to our education programs including Camp Invention®.

Before joining our dedicated team here at NIHF, some of our employees experienced our camp program as Directors, Instructors, Leadership Interns (LIs) and even campers! Read on to hear from some of our NIHF team members as they reflect on what it means to them to have experienced Camp Invention firsthand.


Sharing Favorite Camp Memories

At Camp Invention, our weeklong, confidence-boosting STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) summer camp, kids build creative inventions and lasting friendships.

Polly Jones, now an account manager at NIHF, first got involved with Camp Invention as an Instructor in the late 1990s. She went on to become a program Director for two years, and then served as the Director of two camps in 2021! Jones recalled campers requesting additional group meetings after their program ended because they’d had so much fun!

“It showed me how important connection was to them,” said Jones. “Those five days were so impactful that they wanted more.”

Kristin Thorsen, regional program development manager at NIHF, has had a similar experience. Reflecting on her 18 years as a Camp Invention Director, she remembers a particular group of enthusiastic campers who continued to collaborate into the evening to design and build their own working invention inspired by their camp experiences.

“They came in at the end of camp with a hovercraft they had put together – with a working battery source and everything,” Thorsen shared.

For LIs, or those participating in NIHF’s volunteer opportunity for high school and college students at Camp Invention, the program offers a chance to overcome obstacles and inspire younger students. Kylie Sees, marketing communications assistant at NIHF, remembers her experience first as a camper and later as an LI.

“In school, I was very focused on academic achievement and getting things right the first time. But at Camp Invention, I was able to freely build upon failures and try new ideas,” explained Sees. “As an LI, I was so excited to see campers gain confidence throughout the week as they experienced the same growth in creativity and risk-taking.”


Inspiring Children at Camp

Perhaps the best part of being involved with camp is knowing that kids are learning important STEM skills while making fun memories they’ll treasure for years. Campers build an innovative mindset as they think creatively to solve real-word problems, and they will continue to use this mindset long after their week at camp.

“Making learning fun is really important,” Jones said. “Research shows that ensuring engagement is one of the most important things you can do for students’ learning.”

Camp caters to the strengths of each child by encouraging open-ended exploration and self-expression, helping them to see that their ideas matter.

“They can go out into the world and conquer any challenge that is presented to them,” explained Thorsen. “That is the mindset that we instill at camp, and the returning campers continue to get that ingrained in them.”

Barbara Hinton, regional program development manager at NIHF, has seen this mindset at work throughout her eight years as a Camp Invention Director. Starting in 2011, Hinton led camp in her district and was able to see the trajectory of students going from camper to LI.

“Camp is able to meet kids where they are and allow them a space to collaborate and build skills that they transfer into the classroom,” Hinton said. “Teachers would always tell me ‘I know which kids went to Camp Invention’ because they were inventors, problem solvers and always willing to build their own solution.”

One week of camp can make a lasting impact in the lives of children, student volunteers and educators alike – just take it from our NIHF employees who have experienced this difference for themselves!


Share Your Story

Were you involved in Camp Invention as a camper, Leader-in-Training (LIT), LI, Instructor or Director? We would love to hear from you! Share your camp stories with us on Facebook.

Related Articles