Camps with Summer S.T.E.M.
Virtual reality. 3D printing. Drones. Wearables. They’re among the technology industry’s hottest trends – and are also coming to a summer camp near you.
Tech summer camps have expanded over the years, offering a chance for students to learn computer programming, game design, robotics and other tech skills that they may not get in school. It’s an opportunity for kids to geek out on technology that they’re already obsessed with, such as Minecraft and Pokemon Go. Others use technology to tap into their other passions, such as filmmaking, music, art and fashion. Older students can explore future careers in technology, from cybersecurity to web design.
This summer, students will also be able to get their hands on the latest technology – some of which is only now making its way to consumers. Most virtual reality headsets and games, for instance, launched to the public over Christmas.
“Virtual reality is exploding right now,” says Jon Griffith, content developer for iD Tech Camps. “We’re jumping on it because it’s starting to get widespread. It’s going to be everywhere in the next two years.”
Students won’t just be picking up new computer skills, adds Griffith. Students will also learn what it takes to design and build something, taking it from a prototype, to testing, to going back to the drawing board to make it better. “That’s an important skill to have,” he says.
Check out some of the ways the latest tech trends are making their way into Bay Area camps this summer:
With a headset and motion sensors, you step into a computer-generated, three-dimensional world, be it a beach or a busy train station. In recent years, major companies such as Facebook and Google have been racing to develop the technology to make it possible. The industry is excited about virtual reality – known as VR – since it feels as though you’re immersed in the make-believe world. VR devices have finally begun to be available for purchase by consumers, along with early VR games.
Digital Media Academy. Digital Media Academy will offer a VR game design course at Stanford this summer. Youth ages 12 and up will learn how to create a VR game, including game scripting.
iD Tech Camp. A new addition to iD Tech Camp, its virtual reality design course will let students ages 13 and up have hands-on experience with virtual reality. They’ll learn how to use VR software to create their own virtual world. They’ll also build carnival games, such as darts or ring toss, which they’ll be able to play.
Make School. Make School in San Francisco will run an eight-week summer academy dedicated to VR for students ages 13 and up. Students must apply by June 1 and have basic computer science skills and knowledge.
Summer Camps @ The Tech. Through a partnership with the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, Camp Galileo will offer several sessions devoted to VR. Students in grades 4 through 8 will build their own VR headset and design a 3D world to go with it.
3-D Printing is no longer just two-dimensional words and images on sheets of paper. In recent years, 3D printing has become much more accessible and mainstream. We’re seeing the results: creative uses such as tiny prosthetics for injured animals, car parts and even artificial organs for sick patients.
Digital Media Academy. Campers ages 8 to 12 will have the chance to take their designs from paper to the computer to a 3D printer. Older campers ages 12 and up will also learn about “Design Thinking,” an entrepreneurial design process that originated at Stanford.
Galileo Summer Quest. Fifth- through eighth-graders will design and print their own creations, then showcase and take them home at the end of camp.
i2 Camp.Girls ages 9 to 13 will learn to sketch, model, print and build 3D parts in this program developed by the MIT Edgerton Center.
iD Tech Camp.In its 3D printing classes, offered for the first time last summer, students ages 10 and up will learn to use Autodesk software to create a model of an object and print it. Last year, campers made toys – such as accessories for their action figures – as well as useful tools. One student was frustrated that other kids would kick his smartphone while it was plugged into an outlet, so he designed something to hold his smartphone on the wall while it was charging.
Summer Camps @ The Tech. Students in grades 6 to 8 will learn how to use Autodesk software to design and create a digital model of their object, then print it using the classroom’s 3D printer.
Drones – also known as unmanned aerial vehicles – are like advanced remote controlled airplanes. Photographers have used them to take aerial shots from amazing heights. Amazon is rumored to be looking for ways to use them to deliver packages. Humanitarians have experimented with using them to drop off medical supplies to areas that are difficult to reach. And last year Domino’s used a drone to deliver a pizza.
Hiller Aviation Museum.Elementary school (K to fifth) students will have the chance to design, build and test a drone, among other aerospace engineering activities.
STEM Summer Camp at Foothill College. Middle and high school students will build and fly their own drones.
Wearables are tiny computers that you wear, such as the Fitbit and the Apple Watch. Designers have also created technology-infused jewelry, shoes and clothes, from a ring that sends an alert if the wearer is being attacked to shoes and athletic wear that can monitor your speed, heart rate and temperature.
Camp Edmo.Fifth- through eighth-graders will hone both their sewing and circuitry skills as they make backpacks, pet monsters and other wearable art.
Ellen Lee writes frequently about technology for Bay Area Parent.
Here's a list of other STEAM summer camps around the Bay Area:
Bricks 4 Kidz. Themes from Angry Birds to Minecraft enhance these LEGO-learning camps. bricks4kidz.com.
Destination Science. Learn the physics behind superheroes and more at this camp for kids. destinationscience.org.
Edventure More. Has S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, art, math) summer camps for a variety of ages. campedmo.org/summer-programs/.
iDTech. Kids ages 6 and up learn web design, robotics, 3-D printing and more. idtech.com.
Girls Who Code. Girls have fun with computer science in a club or the summer immersion program. girlswhocode.com.
MV Code. Week-long summer camps in coding, robotics, web development and game development. www.mvcodeclub.com/summer/camps.
Planet Bravo. Develop multimedia skills and enjoy outside time in this East Bay camp. planetbravo.com.
Tech Know How. Offers tech, robotics and coding camps during the summer, spring and winter. www.techknowhowkids.com.