Campers had the opportunity to work with LEGO Mindstorm robotics, and more.
Luddy Hall was buzzing during SICE Summer Camp 2019 at the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering.
Students entering grades 9-12 brought plenty of energy to the building, and some also built and programmed LEGO Mindstorm robots, which buzzed through the hallways and give the campers a sense of accomplishment for a completed task. LEGO Mindstorm robotics was just one of the paths the 95 campers in attendance could follow as they learned about informatics, computer science, and intelligent systems engineering at SICE. Other options included fabrication, programming Arduinos and Raspberry Pis, working with etextiles, networking, web design and development, graphic design, advance programming, and more.
“We spent the first day of the camp getting everyone up to a basic level of ability where they start to gauge their interest in the different tracks,” said Matt Hottell, a senior lecturer at SICE and one of the organizers of the event. “Then, everyone could choose the path they wanted to take, and each of those paths roughly correspond with a path an undergraduate might take through our school. We tried to give folks different flavors and let them choose what they seemed to like while allowing them to explore without being locked into any one subject.”
Dylan Harper, a 17-year-old from Noblesville, Ind., became interested in the camp during a recent college visit to IU, and he was excited by the opportunity to work in Luddy Hall.
“I really liked Luddy Hall on my visit,” Harper said. “They mentioned the camp, and I decided to sign up. I really enjoyed learning different coding languages. I liked learning about Linux, Unix, and things I’ve never learned before. Python, Unity… I’ve known some HTML, Java, CSS, but it’s cool to learn about other things, such as what we learned about cybersecurity. It was cool to learn what you would need for that job in terms of coding languages, and we got some experience in learning some of the tools you might need.”
The residential camp also included meals and housing in an IU residence hall, as well as activities such as bowling and visits to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall and the Cuban Center for Sports Media and Technology. For Amelia Konstantinopoulos, a 15-year-old from Munster, Ind., the opportunity work with like-minded campers was a positive.
“I’ve enjoyed meeting so many new people who have the same interests,” Konstantinopoulos said. “I’m not usually around so many people who are so into technology, and it has been great to work alongside other people who are really into what I’m into. I’m really interested in IU’s program in computer science, and I though this camp would be a great way to find out more about it. I’ve been working with the Raspberry Pis, Arduinos, and Mindstorms along the coding lines, and the counselors have been great helping me.”
Getting the flavor of college life outside the classroom was fun for campers, but many of them became so engrossed in their work that they were excited to dedicate extra time to their projects.
“Every year the campers give a different vibe,” Hottell said. “This year, we seemed to have a lot more folks who were serious about coding and technology. Several of them in their free time at night, it wasn’t about going to play video games or hanging out with their friends. They wanted to continue building an encryption server or spending more time working on Python skills or build a virtual world. They were given the option to go have their regular brand of fun, but what was fun for them at this camp was continuing what they learned in their sessions.”
The camp included a five-day stay, but an extended camp of a week was also available. More than a third of the campers opted for the extended stay.
“We had one student who arranged to extend her stay,” Hottell said. “She called home and asked if she could stay longer since she was enjoying herself so much, and that kind of dedication is really great to see.”
Hottell has been working the camp for a number of years, and he’s seeing an increased sophistication in campers when they walk in the door. That said, campers have the opportunity to develop their skills with the help of the technical experts at SICE.
“With the proliferation of things like Raspberry Pi and Arduino that are cheaper computing devices that can be on a Christmas or birthday list, it gives you the opportunity to do some technical things at an earlier age,” Hottell said. “But if you run into a problem, you’re stuck. You can go to online sources, but that’s not necessarily going to be able to solve the problem for you. Coming here where you can get one-on-one time with students or staff makes it a lot easier. These were impressive kids, and the collaboration across the disciplines really helps produce a camp that is beneficial to everyone.”