Techie Camp

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By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
Anna Dake, a volunteer with Tech Corps, works with Finland Elementary School students Hannah West and Sophia Tope during the final work day of a week-long Techie Camp on June 20. More than 35 children at Finland and Franklin Woods Intermediate participated in the camp that taught them programming skills to create their own apps. West and Tope made an app for parents that tells them the exact moment their children’s punishment time is up.

Like many children his age, Preston Miller loves computer and video games. He said he has learned many skills while playing on these mediums and has even decided that he wants to make a career out of it.

“I plan to be a YouTube video game creator,” said the fourth grade student at Finland Elementary School.

Knowing that he needed to hone the skills required to be a game creator, Miller was excited to learn that he would have the opportunity to do so at his school. The only problem was that it would take place in the summer.

“I love summer break but I really wanted to do this,” he said.

On June 17 at roughly 8:30 a.m., Miller found himself back in school for an all-day, week-long programming class called Techie Camp, which was made possible for students at Finland Elementary and Franklin Woods Intermediate through a grant from Battelle and Tech Corps.

“Techie Camp is a hands-on program that teaches young children the basics of programming,” said Tech Corps instructor Will Sierzputowski. “For this week, along with the one that was held last week (June 10 -14 at Franklin Woods), they are learning how to make an app but with the stipulation that they make something that benefits others.”

When the stipulation was announced the first day of class, Sierzputowski said there were a lot of blank stares.

“I don’t know if it was because it is the summer and they’re in summer mode or if they thought they would be making cool apps right away,” said the junior at Ohio Northern University with a laugh. “Some later told me they thought they would be doing something that would make them a lot of money so I think it might have been the second option.”

But with some prodding, the group of 22 budding creators brainstormed ways apps can help people, watched design and programming tutorials, and started putting their ideas to code.

“I am so impressed by what they came up with,” said Tech Corps instructor Anna Dake. “There has been a lot of variety with these groups.”

Olivia Reynolds, 10, she designed an app that helps people remember recipes.

“If people forget, they can just pull it up and have the instructions right there,” said the Franklin Woods Intermediate student.

Hector Flores co-created an app for parents to tell them the appropriate age for their children to do chores.

“I mow the grass and I’m not sure I should be made to do it at my age,” said the fourth grader.

Hannah West and Sophia Tope created an “ungrounding app” that counts down the exact time they are out of punishment.

“Parents are always trying to tell you that you have more time in punishment,” said West.
“This app will show them that it is not true because the countdown tells them the time is up,” added Tope.

Miller, the future game creator, programmed an app that allows people to find games on Roblox, a popular game creation system platform.

“It breaks it up by skill level too,” he said. “If they’re a beginner and want to play a game where they find eggs, the app shows them where to find it for beginning level players.”

Other app creations include Fortnight quizzes, algebra flashcards, origami instructions, sports point trackers, and a once-a-day reminder to do something nice for someone else.

While the students said there was some difficulties learning how to program, they were given great instruction and plan to continue making apps well into the future.

“It was a struggle sometimes but I had a lot of fun learning how to do this,” said Reynolds. “Eventually I would like to put something on the app store but I need to work on a few more things first before I can reach that level.”

The Techie Camp that was held at Finland Elementary and Franklin Woods Intermediate marked the first time the popular camp was held in the South-Western City Schools District. It was brought to the school, in addition to the grant, due to the efforts of Kira Shade-Ray, the Finland Elementary site coordinator for Communities in Schools, and Helen Cosner, a gifted intervention specialist with the district. Shade-Ray said that while coding clubs are growing in popularity at the schools, they would love to host Techie Camp again next summer.

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