Youth for Technology Foundation partnered with Best Buy to bring the Geek Squad Academy back to Louisville, Kentucky for the second year in a row.
In the immersive two-day STEM summer camp, girls and boys ages 11-14 engaged in fun, interactive activities that not only helped them develop their technical skills, but sparked their creativity and gave them a boost of confidence in their abilities.
At the Programming and Robotics class, students learned the basic foundations of computer programming. Each child used an iPad equipped with the SPRK Edu app to create a Star Wars-themed virtual maze filled with hazards like Storm Troopers. They then challenged their classmates to navigate through their virtual mazes as a BB-8 avatar. On the second day of instruction, they got to take their new skills from the virtual world into the real world as they were mentored on how to use the SPRK programming language to send block code commands to a physical Sphero BB-8 robot. Mazes made of tape were laid out on the floor of the classroom and students sent chains of commands to the robots and cheered them on as they raced through the mazes.
The Digital Compass class helped students explore how to make good choices when using technology. Online safety is a serious concern for middle schoolers, and each class collaborated to create an interactive, character-driven story that addressed the positive and negative effects of social media usage. The class practiced decision-making skills in different scenarios and examined the consequences that their character faced when presented with issues such as how to avoid plagiarism, how to determine which web sites and apps are reputable, and how to take daily steps to ensure their online safety.
At the 3D Printing and Design station, students were introduced to basic computer aided design (CAD) skills while being mentored on using the SketchUp program to design their own three-dimensional house model! Each child was able to save their creation on a thumb drive, and a MakerBot Replicator was set up so they could see the 3D printing process in action.
When asked, students said they were most excited about the Digital Music class where they learned how to produce their own music. Each child was provided with their own iPad equipped with the GarageBand app and a set of headphones. They were instructed on how to record their own sound samples and incorporate them into the songs they created using the features built into the GarageBand app. The musical creations that were crafted by participants were very impressive!
We know from past experience that participation in enriching STEM camps like this one gives middle schoolers a boost in their academic performance and can even help improve daily attendance. It’s also important to note that by the time the children who joined us at Geek Squad Academy graduate high school, as many as 30% of the jobs that exist today will have been completely automated, but jobs that require creativity and technical skills will be in higher demand. Programs like YTF Academy and Geek Squad Academy that teach STEM in engaging ways that inspire kids to use their technical skills to get creative are helping them prepare for the future. We’re empowering the next generation of leaders to enter the workforce with the STEM education and entrepreneurship skills they need to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution.