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Kids get early start on careers of future; camp introduces coding, game/website design

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While other youngsters attend summer camps where they go on field trips or play outdoor games, 16 kids in the Rome Kids Code Camp at Georgia Highlands College are being introduced to the 21st century skills that just may land them a job one day.

The camp for kids ages 10 to 14 — some exceptions are made for kids younger or older than the age limits — started Monday and ends today. During the week, kids work on developing their own code project and get acquainted with what goes into building websites and games, said camp instructor Sarah Tebo, a web designer and front-end developer.

Tebo said this is the first year the camp, which is sponsored by Makervillage and costs $200, has been held at GHC — the camp last year was just for girls and was sponsored through the Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation Department. It is also the first year campers have used the coding program Tynker, which offers a pre-made curriculum and tutorials to get kids involved in the world of coding, she added.

Tebo said the kids aren’t actually learning real code, but rather using Tynker to engage themselves with what it’s like to think like a coder by filling in blocks of code. It’s a way of letting them figure out on their own whether or not a future of coding is something they are interested in.

Tynker provides a foundation for the kids to make their own platform game, which is like Mario, Tebo said. Kids also make “digital comic books” with basic animations and practice making shapes “programmatically,” she continued.

In addition to working on the computer during the mornings, campers do activities or hear presentations related to STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — concepts. Earlier this week kids made batteries using pennies and vinegar, got to fly a drone and listened in on a presentation from Lewis Chemical Co. representatives. 

Helen Stovall, 11, participated in last year’s camp and said that she loves to play games, but she has never been able to make her own. She said it’s cool to see her work lead to the creation of a game she can play.

For 13-year-old Riley Crone, who is also a second-year code camper, getting a behind-the-scenes experience with how websites or games are made is something of a start for what may blossom into a career. She said she is interested in a career where coding is integral, especially since jobs like that often come with a fat paycheck.