CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - For most high school students, the summer is time for fun and games.

But for 18 central Virginia teens, summer vacation is the time to create games and learn new computer science skills.

“It’s a whole lot of fun and it’s all things computer science,” Elijah Witt, a rising 10th grader at Western Albemarle High School, said.

These high school students from all over central Virginia are immersing themselves in two weeks of computer science skills at St. Anne’s-Belfield’s (STAB) SPARK Launchpad Summer Camp.

“We're doing physical computing, we’re doing coding with them, right now they’re working on game design with a unity engine,” Kim Wilkens, STAB’s computer science coordinator, said.

The annual camp helps prepare teens of all skill levels for high school and college-level computer classes, plus careers in the field.

“Computer science has this mythology, I guess, of being really hard and you have to be really smart at math and science, and so if we can break down some of those barriers to entry then we think more people will take it,” Wilkens said.

The instructors rely on the more advanced students, like Nia Robinson, to help teach the class.

“This camp both challenges me and, because it’s my second year, I’m able to help out the other kids as well,” Robinson, a rising 10th grader at STAB, said.

As the technology sector continues to blossom in Charlottesville and across the country, programs like SPARK prove to be an important launching pad.

“There’s just a lot of jobs to fill and so there’s a need for these kind of skills,” Wilkens said.

And these skills can be useful for anyone, regardless of his or her age or career choice.

“It’s good to know a bit about how things work,” Witt said. “Now that I’ve kinda delved into how the computer works, I’m able to take care of my computer more, I’m able to fix problems that I would’ve normally, like, paid someone to fix for me.”

On Tuesday, July 16, these students will take a tour of downtown Charlottesville app developer WillowTree, and on Friday they’ll share their projects with their friends and family at the program's wrap-up launch party.