Middle schoolers go ‘app’ in camp
by JOYANNA WEBER, Banner Staff Writer
Jun 17, 2013 | 948 views | 0 0 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CAMPER CHACE HARRIS adds blocks of code to complete his program during the Android Applications design camp at Lee University. Banner photos, JOYANNA WEBER
CAMPER CHACE HARRIS adds blocks of code to complete his program during the Android Applications design camp at Lee University. Banner photos, JOYANNA WEBER
Middle school students got their first taste of software programming during the recent Lee University Andriod Applications camp.

Students started out modifying and building onto existing programs within smartphone application software and then created their own apps. The first few days of the camp were spent learning the components of developing apps, and how to put them together.

“I’ve always wanted to learn programming, but I had never really seen a camp that did [what] I was interested in,” said Joseph “Jac” Curole, a 12-year-old camper.

He said the camp really fits his interests.

One of the first games the campers worked on was modifying a “Whack-A-Mole” game.

Another app the students created was a “Magic 8 Ball.”

Jane Anderson, also 12, said one of her personal highlights of the camp was developing sayings for the Magic 8 ball in an application. She said she put a lot of funny sayings in her application.

The most challenging part for the campers was working with the code which would be used to develop the program.

Jane and Joseph said it was important to pay attention when manipulating code so they did not have to go back and fix it later.

Dr. Mava Wilson, coordinator for the app camp, said she had been looking for something new and current to offer to the computer camp students.

A few years ago Wilson began offering programming to her campers through a game programming camp.

“The game programming went over extremely well, so we were trying to find something that would complement that, but also something new that would entice students to want to enjoy doing computer things,” Wilson said.

The popularity of applications for phones and tablets made an application design class seem like a good idea.

“It’s something that’s extremely current,” Wilson said.

A presentation at a conference she attended cemented the idea for Wilson. At the conference the student-friendly programming tool, App Inventor, was highlighted.

Wilson said the program provides the building blocks that students can put together to create programs.

App Inventor was designed for educators by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The campers also used the programing software Scratch that is also available through MIT. Both program designs applications for Android devices.

Wilson has offered computer camps for the past several years. Lee University students work with Wilson to teach the class.

“I have kids that come back every year. Even though they’ve done similar things they always learn more each time they come back,” Wilson said.

“When I come here I feel comfortable that I’m with kids that are, if I can say, ‘geeks,’ like I am,” 11-year-old Brayden Falls said.

Brayden said he was interested in the camp because he wanted to create an app to show his father.

“I thought it would be something really fun to do,” Brayden said.

To appeal to the age of the camp, the applications focused on games.

“We are hoping that they will enjoy them because they are fun, but they teach logical thinking, they can teach critical thinking … its math based,” Wilson said. “We are teaching them the first steps of programing in a fun way.”

Allison McGinnis, a 12-year-old camper, said she thought it “would be really cool to make my own apps for my tablet and my phone.”

Wilson said the camp takes a snack break in the middle of the camp to encourage students to take breaks while using technology. The weeklong camp met from 9 a.m. to noon each day.

Wilson said this year will provide insight into how the camp can be further developed to appeal to more students.