U of M’s tech camp for kids is in high demand

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If you take a stroll around the University of Minnesota East Bank campus this time of year, you’re sure to spot plenty of busy students setting-up and scouting the landscape as they prepare for what’s just around the corner.

With all the commotion, it’s easy to miss the dozens of middle schoolers tucked away in the nooks and crannies of the CSE department for a Technology Day Camp focused on intro to robotics and programming.

Jointly operated by the Digital Technology Center and the Center for Distributed Robotics, the free Camp runs over the month of August with approximately 30 kids participating per week.  Overall, the camp serves 120+ kids and brings together ~30 volunteer graduate student instructors.

“They didn’t have stuff like this when I was in middle school,” graduate student Anna French says.  “It’s useful for kids to have exposure to technology…I volunteered last year and had to come back.”

The Camp has seen hundreds of kids participate since inception ten years ago, but the profile is so low that unless you’re looking for it, you’d never know it’s there.

The University doesn’t breakdown the demographic specifics, but a quick scan of the room reveals near even female to male ratio, with a diversity of color and culture. To that extent, the Camp partners with Minneapolis Public Schools every year to ensure as much access and opportunity across the board.

Each three day mini-camp is packed packed with lessons, labs, tours and lots of excitement.  Hands on activities include soldering and circuits, with programming lessons in Scratch and Python.  The participants can choose to apply their new skills to real projects such as assembling a remote controlled mouse, programming a robot, or designing a new game.

“Interest is definitely growing among the teachers and students, while participation gets bigger every year,” says  DTC staffer Terese Lynch.  “So much so that we had to close the waitlist very early this year because we didn’t want to give false hope.”

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