Immersion strategy engages kids’ tech creativity

Nick Phillips filled some idle summer hours with a technology camp at Arizona State University. He created his own level for a video game known as Half-Life 2.

Although parents often cringe at the thought of their child being zombie-locked into video games for days on end, the fact is kids are catching the technology wave of what’s becoming the centerpiece of today’s education.

This summer, iD Tech brought its technology camps to Arizona State University, where kids ages 7-17 were immersed in a multitude cyber skills, utilizing state-of-the-art software to create their own videogames, and even program their own robots.

Two Kyrene de la Mirada students launched into the professional world of video-game design and robotics software during the weeklong camp at Tempe’s ASU campus.

“It’s amazing they get to work in teams to design these robots,” said Clay Patterson, director and instructor with iD Tech. “When they learn they can control the robot from a program on the computer, it opens up their creativity and imagination.”

Christina and Nick Phillips, who attend Mirada, were both enrolled in this summer’s program. Christina was programming her team’s robot to battle other students’ bots, using a variety of commands she created in the software, called Lego Mindstorm.

“We’re using different commands to control the robot,” Christina said, navigating through the software on the computer to demonstrate.

Patterson said the students start with a simple brick, from which they build their robot, using sensors and commands as tools to navigate.

“There are motion-trackers, light sensors and sound sensors; it’s pretty amazing stuff they get to work with,” Patterson said. “When I was kid, I don’t think we even had wheels we could put on the Legos. Now, we can actually have a cordless robot that can move around, complete an obstacle course, knock over another robot and run tasks.”

Nick, her brother in an adjacent game-development class, was consumed with creating his own level for Half-life 2, a videogame created by Valve.

“I’m modifying the characters, and I can choose which ones are my allies and which are my enemies,” said Nick, as he quickly opened up the game and pointed out the towering enemy monster he had just created.

Nick and his classmates were working with software that allows them to bring their own ideas for the game to life, even mapping out their own levels, Patterson said.

Students from various Arizona schools attended the weeklong camp, receiving instruction from technology professionals who help to propel students into the world of current design processes driving many of today’s projects in almost every career field.

“These kids, as young as seven, are learning concepts that are going to be second-nature for them,” Patterson said. “They are incredibly lucky; I wish I had this when I was younger.”

Christina, who stayed for the entire week on the Tempe ASU campus, said she enjoyed staying in the dorms and met many new friends throughout the week.

“I like this camp because we get to stay on-campus,” she said. “We can go bowling and use their facilities, so that part is cool, too.”

This was the third summer Christina attended the camp. It was the company’s sixth year they brought their workshops to ASU.

“I think it (the camp) is really helping to jump technology forward and increase the accessibility of it,” Patterson said.

“The equipment they get to work with is incredible.”



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