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Ask Slashdot: Setting Up a Summer Camp Tech Center?

timothy posted about a year ago | from the wish-I-was-the-right-age dept.

Education 49

First time accepted submitter michaelknauf writes "I'm running a large summer camp that's primarily concerned with performing arts: music, dance, circus, magic, theater, art, and I want to add some more tech into the program. We already do some iOS game design with Stencyl. We also have an extensive model railroad and remote control car program and a pretty big computer lab (about 100 Apple machines). Our program provides all materials as part of tuition, so I've stayed away from robotics as a matter of cost, but I'd love to buy a 3D printer and do classes with that and the Arduino is cheap enough to make some small electronics projects sensible... where do I find the sort of people who could teach such a program as a summer gig? What projects make sense without spending too much cash on a per project basis but would be cool fun for kids and would teach them?"

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Screw tech. (3, Insightful)

mbstone (457308) | about a year ago | (#42302799)

The little bastards already spend too much time hunched over keyboards and phones as it is. Get them outside. They'll have their whole lives to spend in cubes.

Re:Screw tech. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42302855)

Not such a bad idea,in school, they dont get much sports (or atleast cannot compete properly) because usually they will not be as fit as the regulars

In such a setting, they are competing against equal competition, so perhaps they will have more fun? (I certainly have more fun in office outings than in college outings where there were 1-2 pros who would spend all their time in college perfecting their physical skills and win all the games,etc in the outings)

one word: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42302971)


Re:Screw tech. (3, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#42303049)

The little bastards already spend too much time hunched over keyboards and phones as it is. Get them outside. They'll have their whole lives to spend in cubes.

Why is it that every time there is a discussion about teaching tech to kids, some goober makes the point that since kids shouldn't be spending 100% of their time on tech, therefore they should be spending 0% on it, and we shouldn't even be discussing it?

Nobody is saying that they will spend 100% of their time on tech. Summer camps have plenty of physical activities. Most likely there is already a block of time set aside for "computer skills", and the submitter is just looking for the best way to fill that time rather than just leaving the kids to update their Facebook profiles.

Re:Screw tech. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42303113)

Why is it that every time someone rightly points out that kids today already spend way too much time hunched over keyboards or playing with tablets, some techno-weenie makes a point that they are wrong?

Re:Screw tech. (1)

slick7 (1703596) | about a year ago | (#42305373)

Nobody is saying that they will spend 100% of their time on tech. Summer camps have plenty of physical activities. Most likely there is already a block of time set aside for "computer skills", and the submitter is just looking for the best way to fill that time...

Under the NDAA, this could be considered a cyber-terrorist training camp and subject to a Predator strike.
Just saying..

Re:Screw tech. (1)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | about a year ago | (#42303751)

No kidding. Going off to camp is supposed to be about social growth. Meet new kids, do new things, spend time outdoors, swim in the lake.

Re:Screw tech. (1)

westlake (615356) | about a year ago | (#42304371)

The little bastards already spend too much time hunched over keyboards and phones as it is. Get them outside. They'll have their whole lives to spend in cubes.

In 2008 the New York Times ranked French Woods as one of the top three performance arts camps.

These photographs may give you some idea why: French Woods, Festival of the Performing Arts summer camp [weesteetee.com], French Woods, Festival of the Performing Arts summer camp Part II [weesteetee.com]

There is something to be said for going "unplugged."

Sounds like ... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42302823)

... Little Lord Fauntleroy's Academy for Albino Hemophiliacs.

Radio Club (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42302853)

Contact some ham radio clubs in the area. Its a good place to find people who like to experiment with electronics.

You will need computers (3, Funny)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about a year ago | (#42302859)

I recommend at least one computer. Also, computers these days require electricity and display monitors.

Furthermore, keyboards are very handy for interfacing with the computer.

Also you will need at least five dogs to ward off attackers who might come on the internet or the LAN to virus you. Big, scary barky dogs.

100 apple computers and cash-concerned ? (2)

richlv (778496) | about a year ago | (#42302893)

wait, you have 100 apple systems and one of your main requirements is "without spending too much cash" ? :D

Re:100 apple computers and cash-concerned ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42303065)

The 100 apple comps are already there... hence do not cost anything. They probably came with the facility rental.

you should consider leaving (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42302905)

find a job/calling that suits you

allow the camp to flourish under a person who embraces it for what it is

maybe return as a camper one day

Re:you should consider leaving (1, Insightful)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about a year ago | (#42303343)

My first inclination was to say "what a jerk" to the above poster, but after RE-reading the summary... he's right.

If the camp is going to be about the arts, let it stay that way. I can understand maybe infusing a little bit of tech here or there, like doing "something" with the pottery classes or something with the model train set. But nothing so far as getting an expensive 3D printer or anything like that.

But too much tech isn't really in the spirit of it. There are IT / tech / computer CAMPS specifically for that kind of stuff.

Re:you should consider leaving (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42304011)

OP is wrong, but you're also wrong.

You're all thinking about it in terms of a dedicated tech course. That'd be retarded given the setting.

Technology plays a huuuuugggeee role in the arts now. Just browse around hackaday for all kinds of projects which could qualify as art, or be interesting to artists.

Hell, look at processing.js and all the love that got from art lecturers.

Ideally you want to open artists eyes to the possibilities of tech and those tech focused into artistic outlets (which ideally get them to move about a bit more).

Random idea.. get a few of those video game dance mats and hook it up to some interesting stuff.
Get a bunch of those kinda things, just let em loose and see what they do

Setting Up a Summer Camp Tech Center? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42302975)

Once again, Betteridge has the answer: No.

Teach them to make a website (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#42302997)

My non-nerdy daughter learned to make a website at summer camp. They used some WYSIWYG tools so the learning curve was shallow. They learned some Photoshop to prepare images. She loved it. She made a website about how to grow flowers.

My very-nerdy son did robotics at summer camp using Lego Mindstorms. He loved it, but it costs $$$, and may not appeal to the "music, dance, theater" crowd.

A 3D printer is a good idea and lots of fun for both nerds and artists. Since it is just for a few weeks, you might look at borrowing or renting the machine instead of buying.

Tried asking students? (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about a year ago | (#42303009)

where do I find the sort of people who could teach such a program as a summer gig?

This seems as if it answers itself, since the people who are most reliably available during the summer are students and teachers. You should probably look for contact info for higher-ups in the relevant departments (CS, CE, EE, etc.) at a couple of the local universities and ask them to circulate an e-mail with whatever you're looking for to their undergrad students (grad students are busy during summer, as are the professors). Such e-mails are fairly standard and a lot of students wouldn't mind having something —anything — that they can put on their resume as work experience if they didn't manage to line up an internship. And since it's a summer gig and it looks like you're providing housing, you can probably reach out a bit further, since college students will be willing to travel a bit.

You may always want to try local high schools as well, honestly. College students may be doing internships or traveling around, but high schoolers tend to stay more local, and for the level of stuff you're teaching, they can probably be trained pretty easily. Get in touch with the computer science or technology teachers from a few of the local high schools and ask them to check and see if any of their top students are interested in helping out kids over the summer. If the pay is right, you can probably expect a decent turnout.

To what end? (4, Informative)

kenh (9056) | about a year ago | (#42303011)

Why do you want to add tech into fairly diverse offering? Is the camp trying to get more campers? Are you wanting to experiment? Why?

If you want to get more campers, why not teach programming on the 100 computers you already have?

If you want to experiment, I'd say speak to the other counselers and see where tech could help them (playwriting for drama, notation tools for music, etc.) and if you really want to get adventurous, pick up some Aurdinos and copies of one of the intro books and have the various existing disciplines adopt tech into their offerings.

Maybe a micro controller that runs the lights for a play, maybe they create an instrument in music lass, maybe they construct an interactive ate installation in art class.

Tech is not a destination, it is a tool to solve problems - find out what problems/opportunities the programs have and address them.

Robotics camps lready exist, why turn your camp into another one?

Rainy Day (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about a year ago | (#42303469)

A good summer camp plans for all contingencies, and spending a quiet day working on tech stuff is a good option during a downpour. Save the hiking and backpacking for when it's sunny whenever possible.

Re:Rainy Day (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42304113)

Since the camp is about the artsy fartsy stuff, they probably have lots of indoor stuff already. Dance, theater, pottery, all sorts of stuff that these campers apparently signed up for thinking it was an art focused camp. Switching to tech on them won't make them happy and you can do most of their artsy stuff indoors when it rains.

Remember 3D Printers Are Slow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42303055)

As in it can easily take 20 hours for a decent sized print on a Makerbot/Solidoodle/etc. Add in the fact that these printers are not perfect -- you will likely make about five 2 hour prints that end up cancelled before you get your object tuned correctly. Realistically, the kids may be out of the class each day before the printer bed heats up.

So a 3d printer in a class might work if the class works together on designing a single object, but the concept of each student being able to print their own objects is probably not going to work.

Keep in mind making a printable model, and getting it to print correctly, is a non-trivial task. Folks that own these popular low cost printers invest hundreds of hours in tuning and modifying them to get decent prints.

You might be better served by outsourcing the printing to a place that can print on a commercial machine and mail the parts back.

Makes no sense... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42303087)

You're an arts summer camp... why are you making it tech?

Video editing and post-production
Audio/video encoding
Posting stuff online (though you kids probably know more about this than you already)
Sound composition
Lighting controls

I parents wanted their kids to go to tech camp, they would send them to tech camp.

Laser cutter suggested (1)

Win Hill (1594463) | about a year ago | (#42303171)

A 3D printer requires making 3D models, which can require considerable take time and skill to create. The printers are also very slow and good for only very small objects in a reasonable time frame. As an alternate, I suggest you consider a laser cutter. These act as "printers" for 2D vector files, which are easy to create in drawing programs like Corel. The user's complex shapes cut from plastic by the machine can be glued together to make many interesting and fascinating art projects. The laser cutter is fast enough so many people can use it what seems to be nearly the same time. You can get a good one for $10 to $15k. An Epilog Legend Mini 24 ( http://www.epiloglaser.com/legend_mini24.htm [epiloglaser.com] ) would be a good choice. We bought one two years ago at the Institute and it became an instant hit, busy all the time, with everyone using it.

Re:Laser cutter suggested (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#42303475)

I suggest you consider a laser cutter.

I second this. At my local Techshop [techshop.ws] the laser cutter is always busy. They are really fun to use, and easy to learn. You can use them cut or engrave. They work with most plastics, wood, leather, cloth, and even chocolate. Several people can multitask on one machine, with several editing and adjusting their designs while another is lasing. Tip: If you want to engrave a photo of your honey onto a chocolate bar, refrigerate the chocolate for an hour or so first, and use a bit-flipped (negative) image.

You can get a good one for $10 to $15k

Since you only need it for a few weeks in the summer, you could rent or borrow one from a local engraver or techshop.

Re:Laser cutter suggested (1)

bobzchemist (1272534) | about a year ago | (#42310289)

I totally agree with the laser cutter, but also get at least two 3d-printers (in case one breaks). You are really trying to serve two populations - the camper with a casual interest who needs to have a project able to be completed in an afternoon (or he loses interest, thus the quick laser cutter), and the camper who's interested enough to complete a longer-term project, who would be interested in the slower 3d printer. MAKE magazine is currently running a special issue specifically on 3d printers, I suggest you pick it up - and there are many open-source templates that can be easily downloaded and used as-is. I was a counselor at a similar camp (Buck's Rock) so I'm making suggestions based on my experiences there - if they don't apply to you, sorry... I think there's definitely a place for technology as a part of art. From what I can see of your website briefly, you're not integrating it all that well. (Not that I'm surprised, and you shouldn't be discouraged, it's hard to do, and many traditional artist are resisting it strongly) Digital art can be incorporated into many media - painting, ceramics, and print-making through image transfer, screen-printing, or by itself with giclee printing. The laser cutter and 3d printer let you take that into the realm of sculpture, but you may not need separate classes - some of the artists working with you now should be quite able to do this. Digital painting is a separate skillset, though - you may need to bring in a specialist, as well as equipment (wacom tablets, etc,) For counselors/instructors, I'd suggest talking to MIT or Cornell for some bright undergrads - I don't think 3d printing has made it's way into art schools yet. makerspaces are another good place to look.

Try looking for a local maker community (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42303225)

Try looking for a local maker community, you might find some people that if they are not willing to donate their time, might know of people that would.

Look into Children's Technology Workshop AKA iCamp (1)

elwinc (663074) | about a year ago | (#42303293)

Check out Children's Technology Workshop, AKA iCamp, http://www.ctworkshop.com/ [ctworkshop.com]

The teach basic animation, stop motion animation, video game design, basic video editing, and probably some other stuff. They use all freeware tools on Windows laptops. Looking at their website, they seem to be actively exporting their stuff to other countries. Definitely worth a look.

$12000 for the summer and no money (1)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#42303295)

So your camp charges almost $12000 for the summer and you still don't have any money?

Focus on the arts (2)

Revotron (1115029) | about a year ago | (#42303301)

Don't dilute your camp's offerings with excessive technology. If parents are sending their kids to summer camp, it's because they want them to get OFF the computer, get active, and learn about the arts. Video game design is not an "art".

I believe today's generation of children needs even greater exposure to the real arts like music (orchestral and choral, not the shit they hear on the radio), dance (ballet and tap, not that "high school cheerleader dance team" bullshit), theater, etc. I'd understand if you wanted to add a very in-depth Photoshop/graphic design program as that's moreso art than it is technology, but iOS game design is hardly something a parent would consider "art" when camp registration rolls around.

Re:Focus on the arts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42303649)

"Video game design is not an 'art'."

1) The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture,...: "the art of the Renaissance"
2) Works produced by such skill and imagination

Please explain how game design does not qualify as art.

Re:Focus on the arts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42304677)

all the stuff you said not to teach them has a great potential to earn them some money in the future, all the stuff you said they should be doing is out of date and will not earn them a cent today.
and parents don't necessarily want their kids off the computer, they want their kids to do something productive, which developing video games could very well do.

Theater tech? (2)

fimion (890504) | about a year ago | (#42303369)

As a theater tech, have you considered technical theater? Lighting design, sound design, set design.... All of which go with your seemingly arts based camp? There is plenty in that frame work that translates back into real world usefulness....

Is it in the USA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42303609)

The NRA recommends you arm all councillers with at least carbine-sized assult rifles and flack jackets. Make sure they all have radios too. Arm the kids over 16 with handguns. And keep at least half a dozen anti-tank missiles in ready storage. All glass should be bulletproof, all doors and walls should be 5" thick steel, a full suite of motion detectors must be in place, panic buttons wired into the local DHS and Police circuits need to be on a 20' grid throughout the campus.. I think that about covers it. Oh, and get some PCs, too.

Re:Is it in the USA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42303789)

Even countries with severe gun restrictions have violence (guns, bombs, etc.). If at the recent school shootings in the US I wonder how many kids would have died if the kid used a pipe bomb instead of a gun? Or how many would have been saved if a school employee was armed?

Oh, china has fairly strict gun regulations and some dude killed a bunch of kids with a knife. There will always be bad people, the key is to make sure the good people have the means to stop them.

Re:Is it in the USA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42303945)

Even countries with severe gun restrictions have violence (guns, bombs, etc.).

No shit.

If at the recent school shootings in the US I wonder how many kids would have died if the kid used a pipe bomb instead of a gun?


Or how many would have been saved if a school employee was armed?

Hypothetical, unknowable, in aggregate more would probably die.

Oh, china has fairly strict gun regulations and some dude killed a bunch of kids with a knife.

A spate of attacks. Many left wounded, not killed, and fewer killed in any given attack.
Do you deny guns are deadlier than knives? Is so explain why police have guns, why military has guns, why mass murderes choose guns when given the choice.

There will always be bad people, the key is to make sure the good people have the means to stop them.

Deputize the 1st grade teacher? Mrs. Shaw will have crayons and ammunition? And go through training like a police officer on top of her B.Ed.?

My entire post was a sarcastic response to this contemptible, grasping bit of sophistry.

http://img.washingtonpost.com/rf/image_606w/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2012/12/14/National-Enterprise/Images/Connecticut_School_Shooting_03cbd.jpg [washingtonpost.com]

Fuck you.

Re:Is it in the USA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42309347)

Fuck you.

I guess this pretty much sums up the whole reason there can never be an educated discussion about a topic like this. Too many emotionally charged idiots who don't know the first thing about weapons or criminal behavioral analysis. A proper pipe bomb in a contained classroom would have severe casualties, but it is an indiscriminate device. An attack like this is personal and the perpetrator needs to feel control to satisfy them. Had they been immediately confronted by what the assailant perceived was an equivalent force, statistically they will back down. His mom with a .22 wouldn't cut it, but a guard in a uniform with a handgun probably would. Most likely any intervention by an assertive, armed adult male would have probably turned the scenario into either a hostage situation(which means most would have lived, although the gunman and a few other wouldn't have) or an immediate "suicide by cop" response.

captcha: indeed

Re:Is it in the USA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42315403)

All of what you said is true.

None of what you said is a good reason not to impose far stricter restrictions on who can own guns and what kind of guns they can own.

Re:Is it in the USA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42313721)

Fuck you right back.


Banning guns to prevent school killings is like banning cars to prevent drunk driving. You are an idiot.

Re:Is it in the USA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42315249)

Banning guns won't stop all school killings? Obviously.

But since it will stop some school killings then you have to do it. Simple as that.

One Word: Bootstrap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42303861)

Bootstrap [http://www.BootstrapWorld.org] is a soup-to-nuts curriculum and software package, which teaches children the principles of programming and algebra by having them program their own videogames using an algebraic language (Racket). It's been around for years, has been successful with thousands of students in summer programs, afterschool settings, and is TOTALLY FREE. Apparently a bunch of schools are using it too, in both math classrooms and CS classrooms. It's more hardcore than the drag-and-drop stuff, but it definitely gets kids into the design aspect of programming.

Performance art + tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42303933)

There's a huge crossover (i've found) between circus geeks and tech geeks.
Igniting a passion for both in kids is no bad thing.

Why not have them try creating some basic props.
LED powered juggling balls, poi, that kind of thing.

Then you can draw on product design, tech and all kindsa other interesting angles.

The first LED poi I made for myself are still a much treasured possession (if looking a bit the worse for wear now)

Your local hackerspace. (1)

Myself (57572) | about a year ago | (#42304419)

Look at the list of hackerspaces [hackerspaces.org], visit as many as you can find in the local area, and talk to as many people as you can. Most spaces don't have a spokesperson or overarching organization except what's necessary to keep the lights on, so making contact with individuals is important.

Ideas for Your Summer Camp (1)

W2NAF (668462) | about a year ago | (#42305817)


I think it is great that you have a camp that is well rounded in the arts and soon to be technology. I studied both music and physics in college, so I really appreciate that balance. Also, I ran a Technology Center at a Boy Scout Camp for 6 years, and am still involved in it today.

My personal philosophy was to introduce campers to aspects of technology that they probably wouldn't see at home or at school. My specialty is ham radio, so my center had was heavily bent toward that. Ham radio gave me a way to provide a hands on activity to scouts while teaching the basics of electronics, communications, history, ionospheric and space physics, just to name a few.

Other classes focused on electronics and soldering, astronomy, weather, nuclear science, space exploration, and computers. I'm pretty sure that many of the scouts walking through the door did not have the opportunity to use soldering irons, telescopes, and build and launch rockets at home or school. Many young people don't understand computers much beyond word processing and e-mail, so by providing any introduction into hardware fundamentals, operating systems, programming, and servers is also useful and interesting.

This is mostly a laundry list of different technology subjects, but maybe it will give you some good ideas as to what you might want to focus on.

Also, scouting makes building a curriculum easy... they have pre-defined requirements for all of their merit badges, along with very nice "pamphlets" which provide an excellent guide for completing the requirements and introducing the new topic. You can read the BSA requirements here: http://meritbadge.org/wiki/index.php/Merit_Badges [meritbadge.org]. That and the pamphlets may be a useful resource.

One nice thing about technology is that there are often hobby organizations for each of the different subjects with people who are both skilled and willing to share time. For ham radio, visit http://www.arrl.org/ [arrl.org] to find local clubs. Amateur astronomers and rocketeers also have similar clubs which can provide support. At my summer camp, I was able to bring in outside volunteers to provide ham radio license exams on a weekly basis, host star parties with large telescopes, and launch 6 to 8 ft tall rockets that required FAA clearance.

You may want to focus on one or two subjects to start off with. Hire the best person you can to serve as the main teacher. Hopefully this person is an excellent teacher and an expert in at least one of the subjects you are trying to focus on. Then, have them coordinate with local volunteers to enhance the program.

I hope that helps... best of luck with your camp!!!

Starting off... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42306787)

...if you had purchased PCs, you would have saved a boatload of money compared to the Crapples you have, and perhaps you could have afforded robotics stuff.

where do I find people who could teach? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42307283)

Check out the School of Visual Arts, www.sva.edu. They have undergraduate and graduate programs that use these tools and systems.

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