Second year Tech Journey students program robots to play soccer or navigate in a maze using Scratch and Python Thursday at Des Moines’ Central Campus.
For the second summer, the hallways of Des Moines’ Central Campus have echoed with the sounds of about 40 middle school students, if only for a few days.
The second annual Tech Journey camp wrapped Friday afternoon at the school with a presentation and student show and tell open to parents, media and community members.
“There’s a big talent gap for women, blacks and Latinos and we intend to play our part closing that gap right here in Iowa,” Tech Journey organizer Tony Kioko told the crowd.
And it seems to be working.
Anecdotally, Kioko says one student liked the camp’s 3D modeling session so much, he’s started considering a job in the field. Another posited that in 10 years he’d be back at Tech Journey as a mentor, even offering to buy lunch for the program, something Kioko says he’ll remind him of then.
On paper, Tech Journey’s program seems to be making a difference as well.
Between the first and second year, 16 of the 18 returning students said they’ve become more familiar with computer programming basics since last year, according to a survey given by Tech Journey. Seventeen said they’d worked with Scratch, a free programming language where you can create interactive stories, games and animations, at least a little bit since last attending a Tech Journey camp.
Inversely, only one of the 22 first-year students said they’re familiar with computer programming basics.
The changes are enough for Tech Journey’s organizers to say they’re seeing success with the program. By giving each student their own laptop to keep through the year, the program ensures it’s not simply a one-time opportunity but rather a recurring commitment to these Des Moines students through high school.
The camp—created as a way to help empower Des Moines students with limited access to resources to take an interest in technology—began Tuesday morning with a keynote from Dwolla founder and CEO Ben Milne.
From there the students were divided into two groups—first and second year students. The first year students learned basic programming, like Scratch, while the group returning from last year’s camp learned how to build apps with Python, another programming language.
Throughout the week members of the larger business and tech community visited the camp, bringing Google Glass, a 3D printer and even an iPad controlled drone with them.
Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds also spoke at the camp’s closing ceremony Friday, urging students to take full advantage of the growing opportunities in the STEM field.
“There are so many opportunities for careers in STEM disciplines, especially right here in Iowa,” she said.
Reynolds says that by 2018 there are projected to be as many as 72,000 new STEM jobs in the state.
Read more about the second year of Tech Journey: “Tech Journey returns for second year with more students, stronger mission.”
Credits: Camp photo from Tech Journey on Twitter.