It doesn’t look like a summer camp, and it doesn’t sound like one.
"You and your partner are going to design an app that will address some concern or need within your particular community," instructor Adam Mack tells the 25 kids in the room, all of whom are parked at computer screens.
Yes, it is summer camp, even if the kids aren’t jumping in swimming pools or shooting basketballs. The campers are learning computer programming at Coding Camp.
"I came here with no prior knowledge, nothing, and I came out knowing how to make an autonomous car," said Erick Macy, who just completed a two-week session at the camp. He designed a remote-controlled car that uses ultrasound to navigate around obstacles.
iTECH at Thomas Edison High School is hosting the camp for ninth and tenth graders who are doing this because they want to, not because they have to. The 50 slots for the camp’s two sessions were filled almost as soon as the Miami-Dade school district announced the camp would happen.
"They’re just on fire, they’re very passionate about it, which makes it ideal for learning and teaching," Mack said.
The idea of Coding Camp is to let the campers figure things out.
"The teachers are here as facilitators, showing them the program, but basically the students run it, it’s for them to learn and create whatever they see fit and that’s how I believe students learn best," said Layda Nasr, the principal at iTech High School.
iTech is an all-magnet school in its third year of existence. Nasr says it’s an ideal place for students interested in computer science and engineering, and slots for this school year are still available. In fact, 10 of the Coding Camp students are enrolling at iTech as transfers this year (call the school directly if your child is interested in attending).
Coding Camp starts campers out with the basics, the concepts, logic, and process of writing code, and then they move on to applying their knowledge, all in just a two-week session.
"We are learning pretty fast," said camper Wei Cao.
"Now they’re developing their confidence, 'I can do this, and this is really cool,'" explained Mack.
Learning how to code teaches the kids more than just techie stuff. The process also helps them in other academic areas as well.
"It helps them with everything, they need to know math, they need to know creativity, they need to know space, design, I believe anything they want to study, really,” Nasr said.
The ability to analyze, solve problems, and think critically is all part of Coding Camp. You could say that by devoting part of their summer to being there, the campers have broken the code to academic success.
Next year, Miami-Dade Public Schools is expanding Coding Camp to 8th graders and hoping to add more sessions to satisfy demand for the program.