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The digital natives are restless: Geek camp for kids

The digital natives are restless: Geek camp for kids

When you see a child’s eyes light up at the sight of a Star Wars lightsaber, an Arduino kit or a LEGO Technic set, there’s really only one thing to do: sign them up for out-of-school geek classes. They will find themselves in their element, surrounded either physically or virtually by like-minded kids with a burning passion for technology. This welcoming environment might do something for their social skills, too, if they are lagging a bit behind their technical skills.

For some young people the school curriculum just doesn’t have enough meat in the sandwich when it comes to computing, gaming, robotics and other nerd candy. They sit through English classes, struggle through Physical Education classes and dream of a land of unlimited opportunity to play with technology and create stuff that floats their boats. They crave things that ignite their imaginations.

In the UK market alone there is quite a choice of companies providing such escapism / learning. Techcamp runs, well, tech camps involving cool stuff like quadcopter engineering, robotic arms, laser tag, rocketry, game design and precision robotics that will have any young geek salivating.

Funtech, a British provider of term-time and holiday camp tech fests for restless young minds, organises its learning offer into practical skills like touch typing, coding, computing skills and creative tech, under course titles like FunTyper, TechStarter, PureCoder and TechPro. These term-time courses are a year long, with an hour of lessons and an hour of homework per week. Funtech’s holiday camps include a Minecraft Redstone course (Redstone is the substance in Minecraft that resembles electricity and powers things), 3D design and printing, robotics and more.

Firetechcamp run camps around the UK and in Australia teaching Python, Java, LEGO Mindstorms, Minecraft (including making a physical Makey Makey controller), web development, and much more.

Firetechcamp founder Jill Hodges, an American technology enthusiast and entrepreneur with two tech-mad children of 10 and 12, says she started Firetechcamp out of a concern that ‘ … as the technology became more user-friendly, the consumers got further from the code, until the games became a black box. Today many of our kids love to consume games, apps and websites, but don’t know how to CREATE in their favourite media.’

Out-of-school tech clubs started in the United States and have made their way over to the UK via people like Jill Hodges. ‘On a recent trip to the US, I saw kids getting exposure to coding and robotics in after-school clubs and at summer camps. In fact, one company alone in the US hosts more than 30,000 kids in tech camp programmes! When I looked for something similar back home in London I couldn't find any extra-curricular programmes - so I started one up myself.’

The child in the photo is a bit too young for this type of activity yet – but then again, you’ve got to start ‘em young.