By Linda Dillman
Summer break started late for a group of tech savvy Canal Winchester Middle School students as they delved into the information technology world for two weeks.
The school was one of five central Ohio host sites for the Battelle-funded IT On Ramp program, developed and run by TECH CORPS. Students were selected through an application process run by Mickey Bumpus at the middle school. Organizers said the response was overwhelming and there was a wait list of 18 students this year.
This was the third year for a summer IT TECH CORPS experience at the middle school, which challenged students to become active creators and designers with technology versus passive consumers and users. The full day, two-week summer camp combined computer science, information technology skill building and career exploration through hands-on activities and experiences.
“Students gained skills and explored a variety of occupations in the technology field including computer programming, game design, web and app development,” said TECH CORPS Regional Manager Dr. Marci Howdyshell.
The 10 day camp experience ended with team presentations to the public in the school cafeteria. Students displayed their new skills through projects investigating the lives of individuals in the computer science field, such as NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson.
Six teams of four students outlined their responsibilities, which included Web development, software development, game development and application development
Eighth grader Tristan Rieman said he enjoyed Bumpus’ class at the middle school and wanted to continue learning through the free Battelle program.
“This helps with school in the sciences,” said Rieman prior to his space-related game design presentation. “I’d like to pursue coding as a career. I really liked game design and the complexity of Java Script. I designed a space simulation game and really enjoyed making it. My father works in IT and I’ll probably spend the rest of the summer on game design.”
Davina Houchins, mother of 9th grade camper P.J., said her son saw information about the IT On Ramp camp on the district’s Website. She said she researched similar camps, but found they were very expensive.
“This opportunity is really awesome,” said Houchins. “I wanted him to see the IT side, if it is a profession he wants to go into. He learned a lot. It was an awesome experience. I hope they keep doing it.”
Howdyshell felt the Canal Winchester program was a success.
Within the two-week time span, students learned enough programming to design and create their own smartphone apps, computer games and websites. At the end of the camp, students were given the opportunity to anonymously provide feedback about the program in an online survey.
“The IT On Ramp program was funded through a one-year grant, so although we may not be able to provide the same program at Canal Winchester next year, we hope to provide other programs for their students,” said Howdyshell.