CoderDojo Academy Gets Kids Excited about Tech-Related Subjects
Albemarle County Public Schools has a new camp and organizers say it's the first of its kind in the country.
The camp is called the CoderDojo Academy. It brings together students from kindergarten through 12th grade to Albemarle County High School to learn about computer programming, applications, and design.
Most of the students use computers, video games, and apps on their phones on a daily basis, but now they're learning how to create that technology.
"It's actually really cool because a lot of people, they imagine these scenarios in their head that they know are never really going to happen. [But] with the computer, you can make it all come to life and make it all happen," said Jordan Linville, an eighth grade student at Burley Middle School who is participating in the camp.
CoderDojo gets part of its name from martial arts. Instead of getting belts, the students will earn badges as they make progress in the program.
The summer pilot runs from Monday through Thursday. Throughout the week students will be creating computer programs, web pages, robots, and even video games.
The computer program Linville created might seem typical for a middle school girl. "I made this little scene where the two characters kind of have this romantic thing," she explained. But her game has a twist. "In the end she breaks up with him because he forgot to buy movie tickets," she said.
Some of the projects the students are working on are similar to something you might already be able to find on your phone. One student is making a computer program similar to Outfit7's "Talking Friends" applications with interactive animals.
Vince Scheivert, the chief information officer for Albemarle County Public Schools said that even the elementary school students are doing what was considered to be innovative a few decades ago.
"When you think about 1980s, Pac-Man was state of the art, well we probably have three or four kids today who have built a Pac-Man game that would have rivaled what was built in the 80s," he said.
The CoderDojo program is designed to generate greater awareness and interest among students for math and computer sciences. Scheivert said he hopes the program will inspire students to go into coding-related fields.
The purpose of the camp is "to let kids know that the fun they're having today could have real life opportunities for them in the future," he said.
And it seems the students are taking notice. Linville said, "It would be cool to kind of go into designing your own things, cause then you get to bring your imagination to life instead of letting other people's imagination do it for you."
The program also has several private sector partnerships, and engineers from tech-related companies will serve as speakers for the program. Organizers are hoping it will eventually lead to job tours and internships.
The summer pilot program started with just 50 seats, but within minutes the program filled up. Organizers then opened it up to 200 students and still more than 500 remain on the waiting list.
Scheivert said one parent told him she'd have better luck getting Rolling Stones tickets. But the hundreds of people on the waiting list will still have their chance to take part. Organizers say they will offer the program again in the fall as an after school or weekend activity.
"I've found that the camp is awesome," said Joseph Lorber, a fifth grader from Greer Elementary School. "It's like being able to make your dreams a reality," he said.