High school students looking for a jump-start to a high-tech career are invited to attend expanded Coding for Kids camps this summer in Stevensville and explore science and technology through practical and interactive methods.
Founder and co-director Loey Knapp said the camps were started three years ago for introducing technology to elementary and middle school students in a fun way.
The camps have expanded.
“We started with robotics and digital art, things that would capture and imagination,” Knapp said. “That worked really well until COVID then we were quiet for a year, but that gave us time to think about how to expand.”
With significant grants from Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, The Heman Foundation, the Rapp Family Foundation Inc., and Town Pump Charitable Foundation, the organizers developed a three-year plan including adding programming for high school and first and second grades.
The ultimate goal is sharing exciting science and technology with all students and teaching the high-tech curriculum with Stevensville Schools, preparing a trained workforce for local high-tech businesses.
“The Stevensville School is building a tech center and really expanding in that area, the idea is to include high-tech,” Knapp said. “So, if they are going to teach agriculture, well, let’s teach GIS [Geographic Information Systems] and drones. If they are going to teach industrial construction, let’s teach computer-aided design. It is an add-on that takes it up a notch.”
Knapp said technology needs relevance beyond just learning to keyboard or do computer programming and the offerings must involve the community.
“We’ll teach technology in a way that meets the needs of the community,” she said. “We are already doing that with our partnerships. We partner with Montana Studios and are teaching film, we’re partnering with Skyfish, the drone company, and they are assisting us with teaching drone construction and flight.”
The Coding for Kids is teaching a beginning drone class this summer with firm plans to teach a class with a deeper application called “Better Ranching through Drones.”
“We have a teacher, we have a ranch, and it is very relevant technology now,” Knapp said. “Drones are being used for precision agriculture, ranching and so on. I think that will take a step closer to showing the value of learning technology and applying it to our immediate needs.”
The idea is to have students ready for that area and the workforce for Montana Studios, Skyfish and other Coding for Kids partners.
“They are having trouble finding skilled workers in the valley, so, let’s train them,” Knapp said.
The next step is to move from summer camps to teaching these relevant high-tech programs in the Stevensville Schools.
“That’s our agreement with the Washington Foundation,” Knapp said. “Our funding from them came with the structure that we would provide a jump-start. The school is building a tech center, they are in construction mode and building labs.”
Knapp explained that the partners and foundations prefer funding programs in conjunction with a school system.
“As we provide these classes, we will integrate them with other classes taught in the school and over time the classes will naturally become part of the curriculum,” Knapp said. “That doesn’t mean ‘Coding for Kids’ summer camps stop; we can still have summer programs. But in terms of how the high school program is funded, it becomes permanent. We’re really trying to move education up a notch or two.”
The theme of Coding for Kids camps this year is “Creative, Tech and Media Camps” there are 13 classes through June and July, filled with exciting offerings. Classes include “Make Your Camera Tell a Story” where students learn to compose a story and script, use their camera to film that story then edit the video and show it off; in “Sky Pilots” students learn to construct a drone, fly a variety of drones, understand safety and privacy for drones; and “Map it Out” introduces geographic information systems, map projections, collecting field data with phones and designing and printing a map.
Other classes are Dynamic Characters Come to Life; Put the Jive in Java; I Do, You Do, WeDo Robotics; Build a Robotic Heroine or Hero; Sound & Light Extravaganza; Code-a-Game; Code-a-Game: A Step UP; Biomimicry: Design Like a Shark; Dance or Race Your Way into Robotics and Unleash Your smART Powers.
The camps are held at Stevensville Middle School, 300 Park Avenue. Each camp meets for one week, 9 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to noon on Fridays with show and tell at 11 a.m. Each camp costs $125 and includes lunch, equipment and supplies. There are scholarships available. Class sizes are limited and girls are especially encouraged to attend.
Knapp said Coding for Kids has been a community effort.
“I like the phrase ‘It takes a valley,’” she said. “We have wonderful sponsors, local donors, and the tech partners who are helping teach or providing scholarships. The school has been wonderful they are providing the space, internet access, any assistance that they can give. It is not just [co-director] Greg Trangmoe and me, it has a wide support structure.”
Partners include the Heman Foundation, Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, Clearwater Credit Union, Advanced Technology Group, Rapp Family Foundation, The Stock Farm Greater Ravalli Foundation, Town Pump Charitable Foundation, Women’s Foundation of Montana, Leffingwell Foundation, Stevensville Public School System, The Arduino Company, Super 1 Foods, Burn Fork Market and local donors.
The technology partners have offered internships for high school students completing the camps.
“If you take Java Script and drone construction you can get an internship at Skyfish, you take the film class and the character class, well, Montana Studios is there,” Knapp said. “They have officially said, ‘that’s how we will participate.’”
The camps provide training and give opportunities to open doors for high tech-careers for both boys and girls.
“The median household income for the U.S. is $75,000 and here it’s like half of that,” Knapp said. “People with IT skills get jobs starting in the $50,000 range and go to $350,000. Now, with everyone working remotely, there is no reason why everyone has to move to Seattle if they become skilled in IT, they can work from here.”
This fall Coding for Kids will be available as after-school programming.
Knapp said putting the camps together has been filled with amazing connections, willing partners and perfect timing.
“It is so relevant to this valley,” Knapp said. “It has been synchronistic and really fun.”
Coding for Kids is a registered 501c (3) and all donations are tax-deductible.