Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Tuesday Aug 01, 2017

Inspiring Young Minds to be Innovators and Pursue their Dreams

Blog by Joe Matal, Performing the Functions and Duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO

At Camp Invention, almost two million students have explored their own innate creativity, inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit in a week-long day camp program that’s been running annually since 1990. Currently held at more than 1,400 sites in 50 states for kindergarten through 6th grade, these students are learning how to think big, be innovators and pursue their dreams.

Camp Invention is a partnership between the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Inventors Hall of Fame. The program includes a robust STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum while also providing insights into the role of patents and trademarks in innovation. Children develop questions, collect data, draw conclusions and apply new knowledge, while tackling hands-on challenges.

Recently, I had the chance to visit Camp Invention at Hyattsville Elementary in Maryland. I was especially impressed by how they were coming up with new product ideas and building original prototypes using real tools and components found in everyday devices. But beyond that, they had also thought through how they were going to brand and market an item and how they would protect their innovation by applying for a patent and trademark. I was inspired by their enthusiasm and inventive thinking.

Photo of Joe Matal at Camp Invention in Hyattsville, Maryland

Camp Invention is unique because it provides an exciting environment with no wrong answers, a chance to brainstorm with peers and an opportunity to build confidence in the natural ability to dream and create. On a given day, students might learn about such things as terraforming exoplanets, building an air cannon, exploring circuits and electronics or presenting their new invention to mock investors. 

Each year, one Camp Invention student is selected through the “Mighty Minds” contest for an all-expense paid trip to attend the National Inventors Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony held every year in Washington, DC.  This year, the winner was 9-year-old Mya Sewell of Grayson, GA, who has attended Camp Invention for several years. She says she wants to be a scientist or inventor because, “it gives me the freedom to experiment with things without anybody telling me what to do.” Learn more about her experience interacting with prominent inventors at this year's induction  ceremony on May 4.

In addition to Camp Invention, the USPTO also works with the National Inventors Hall of Fame on the Collegiate Inventors Competition, a program designed to allow undergraduate and graduate students to showcase their emerging ideas and inventions that will shape our future. The finalists are judged by a team of inductees from the National Inventors Hall of Fame and USPTO subject-matter experts, and then honored at the USPTO. Winners enjoy over $100,000 in cash prizes and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, DC.

Through the USPTO’s partnerships with youth programs, such as Camp Invention and Collegiate Inventors, we hope to inspire future innovators and encourage creativity and problem-solving skills to enable the next generation to achieve the American Dream.

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