Coding Camp Makes Summer Learning Funby Brie Stimson July 27, 2017
Adam, who’s 6, says he wants to be a computer engineer when he grows up. He and his friends are at Camp CodeREV at Torrey Pines High School where they’re learning coding, robotics, modding and game design.
“I like building the houses in Minecraft!” he tells me. Minecraft, for the uninitiated, is a video game that allows people to build structures inside a computerized world. On the day I was there they were learning to build a large clock.
Many of the instructors come from prestigious backgrounds with companies like Google, Microsoft and Sony. Instructor Miss Molly says she learned robotics from five years at Legoland.
“She knows everything,” 11-year-old Cooper attests. Although Cooper wants to be a football player when he grows up, he says camp, for him, isn’t a waste of time. “I come here because I enjoy doing this” he tells me.
A typical day at camp starts around 9 a.m. and each camp lasts a week. Kids can choose to focus on several areas, including Minecraft Level Design and Engineering, Adventures in Programming, REV Robotics, MathCraft and Game Design.
EdTech entrepreneur Evan Boorman, who lives in Los Angeles, started CodeREV three years ago. The camp opened with one location, but has expanded to more than a dozen camps in California (including two in San Diego) and one as far away as Nantucket, Mass. Before he opened the camps, Boorman was a teacher. He says he wanted to start an education company, “that focused on helping kids get into great schools.”
“I learned programming in college … and I just thought what a great thing to teach kids. It teaches the same sort of logic and problem-solving that math is supposed to teach, but it answers the question of ‘why’ automatically. It says you can do really interesting and fun things … and while doing so you can also learn really practical skills.”
Meanwhile, at the camp, 7-and-a-half-year-old Eli tells me, “I like building robots [because] you can like make cool stuff with them.”
Boorman says during the year they’re also in nine schools doing after-school programs.
“We come in as an elective and teach coding for an hour a week to students. But we’re doing several different models, several different ways of getting it out to kids. Summer camp, I believe, provides the best of those models.”
Boorman’s programs focus on teaching STEAM skills – science, technology, engineering, art and math. “Innovation is a direct result of STEAM,” Boorman explains.
The art component of STEAM, which was added to the previously artless STEM model, is an important factor to Boorman. He says art is also a great way to get girls interested in science and technology.
He says his camps tend to have a higher percentage of girls than other coding camps, and they are working hard to appeal to more all the time. The Torrey Pines camp still only had about one girl for every four boys.
Cora, who was learning to make a clock in Minecraft when I asked her what she thinks of being one of few girls at the camp, shrugged and said, “I just go with it.”
It probably doesn’t hurt to have female role models like Miss Molly to look up to.
Boorman, who is the father of two young daughters, hopes more women become interested in tech jobs – and his mother is one of his role models. “My mom was a computer consultant and software engineer. My mom’s 72 years old so before there were any women, like any women, in that field she was working on massive computers that were the size of a room when she first started,” he tells me. “She faced more than her fair share of, I think, somewhat unfriendly workplaces.”
His mother received her Ph.D. in math from Columbia and was the first woman to be tenured as a math professor at the University of Michigan. His father is a doctor who received his master’s in math.
“So math and science and computers, software, it’s been in my family and it’s in my blood, so to speak.”
His four and five-year-old daughters are a little too young for the camps this summer, but he says they’ll be starting in about a year.
At Torrey Pines, 9-year-old camper Srijan says the teachers are excellent.
“They don’t really push you so hard – they teach you slowly and if you’re too fast they take you at that pace, if you’re too slow they teach you at that pace, but they don’t push you so hard that you like start crying or something.” He says he plans to come back next summer.
For more information on CodeREV coding camps, visit coderevkids.com.