Summer Camp aims to demystify tech

Summer Camp 2017

The unknown can be intimidating. The Summer Camp at the School of Informatics and Computing aimed to shine some light on the possibilities of technology to make it more accessible to students.

A total of 92 high school students took part in the Summer Camp, a one-week residential experience on the IU Bloomington campus. Students were offered the opportunity to learn about the latest trends in information technology, web design, networking, new media, databases, e-textiles, and more while getting a taste of college life.

“We tried to create projects that would kind of map to each of the degree areas in our School,” said Matt Hottell, the Director of Serve IT and an organizer for the Summer Camp. “We did some work with circuits and Arduino LilyPads, which kind of maps to our Intelligent Systems Engineering side of things. The same goes for the e-textile track, which draws a different group of students in the ISE realm. Then we had a track working with a Raspberry Pi, which allowed them to coding and system manipulation in Linux. That’s the computer science side. We also did web design, which maps to informatics. It just gave the students a lot of options.”

Mornings on Monday and Tuesday focused on basics of programming and circuits, but campers who had attended camp before were given the option of taking part in some advanced programming and networking basics.

“We want people to come to camp year after year, and we don’t want them to always do the same thing,” Hottell said. “The challenge is to give them all basic knowledge they need to do the things we want, but we don’t want to bore the people who have been here before. So if they have been through it, we give them advanced options, such as learning the Python programming language or learning about networking. It gave them an opportunity to be engaged at a camp they’ve been through before.”

Campers also had the chance to take part in other activities outside of the classroom, such as geocaching around campus or working with a virtual reality headset. They also got a chance to learn about cyber security and big data, and saw a demonstration of the abilities of 3D printers and laser cutters.

Participants also enjoyed bowling at the Indiana Memorial Union, a night out swimming at the IU pool, and the experience of living in a college dormitory. In the closing hours of the week, campers got an opportunity to ask the 12 student counselors questions about college life, strategies for pursuing scholarships, and more during a wide-ranging Q&A session.

Aliya Rubush, who came to the camp from Clarksville, Ind., near the Indiana-Kentucky border, was drawn to the camp thanks to her grandmother.

“My grandmother saw it in the newspaper, and she thought it would be interesting for me to do,” Rubush said. “I really liked the e-textiles and incorporating lights with clothing or paper. The Q&A session was really informative. Being in high school, I’m just starting to focus on getting scholarships. It was really helpful to learn about the different ways we can go when we head into college. It was great to hear so many different viewpoints and see the different approaches people have taken to their college career.”

Emma Parker is a Bloomington native, and the chance to explore her future will help her make decisions going forward.

“I learned a lot about careers in technology,” Parker said. “I learned what informatics is, and I learned a lot of interesting things. I never knew how to make a circuit board, and I got to do that for the first time. You also make a lot of good friends and great connections.”

James Shipp, also from Bloomington, liked the opportunity to discover new options. Shipp previously had experience coding, so he took advantage of the advanced programming track.

“I’m interested in technology, and I wanted to know what specific areas interested me the most,” Shipp said. “In this camp, you get a really wide view of the different options there are. I would recommend it for people who are kind of looking to find out what they’re most interested in.”

Collin Kinney, who is from Seymour, Ind., was impressed with the range of areas he discovered.

“It was a lot of fun,” Kinney said. “I learned new things about computer coding and engineering, and I enjoyed the e-textiles. You really learn about a lot of cool stuff.”

Developing new skills was important to the camp, but Hottell hoped attendees took home far more than just know-how.

“We want to give them the idea that this isn’t that hard,” Hottell says. “They can learn this on their own. It’s not rocket science. It’s computer science. We have the resources to allow campers to get their feet wet, and they can come away with the idea that it’s fun, it’s exciting, and, most of all, that they can do it. It’s all about empowering campers.”

For more information on SoIC’s summer camps, visit our website.

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