Students get creative at ‘app camps’ - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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Students get creative at ‘app camps’

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Posted: Sunday, July 8, 2012 9:27 am

Want to try skydiving? How about testing your bow and arrow skills against a large purple enemy or fighting off zombie heads before they attack you?

There are children creating apps for such adventures at a summer camp hosted by Arizona State University this year.

The weeklong camps for youth ages 7-17 are being held across the country by iD Tech Camps. ASU’s site will see about 300 students learn how to create computer games, Apple apps and multimedia visual arts creations during the seven weeks camps are offered.

Gilbert’s Tyrus Carrico, 12, is trying out the app camp this week. By Thursday, he’d made an entirely working app where game players fight off big grey creatures using floating weapons.

“I like how it was a blank space when I started it and it came into a working game,” he said as he showed off the game on a computer. This was his second week at the camp, having tried 2-D gaming a few weeks ago.

“I like technology and I figure I might as well do something with it,” he said.

Kai Hayakawa, 10, of Phoenix, said he came up with the idea of the skydiving app while sitting in the pool. In the game, users are skydivers trying to collect coins as they float by buildings in Seattle.

“I had the idea of making apps a long time ago. My dad was looking for an easy program and I tried GameSalad,” he said. It was a little tough, he admits. Then his dad found this camp — where the kids learn how to use GameSalad, a free online program that can be used to create an app.

Instructor Kelsey “Yolko” Manning (all the staff use their nicknames, rather than real names at camp) said it’s fun to see how the kids progress in just a week of learning.

“I think it gives them a sense of accomplishment, especially in making something you’re proud of,” she said.

While the app camp is specifically geared to game creation, the underlying lessons are giving students a taste of what it’s like to do computer programing — a skill that could come in handy in the future, she said.

“I wish I’d learned that at age 10,” Manning said.

Camp director Garth “The Professor” Backman is a science teacher at the San Tan Valley’s American Leadership Academy. He said students these days need these skills because, “It’s just the world they’re growing up in.”

“It’s like when the power went off and you used to fix your dad’s VCR clock. This is the same as that. Technology is taking off at light speed. This is how things function in their world. The earlier they get immersed into it, the better they’ll be in the future. They won’t be afraid of it. The kids need this framework.”

Plus, it’s exposing the students to science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — which is taking off in the education world.

“They’re learning to think with science in mind, STEM-like concepts they need.”

To learn more about the camps, see

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