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Open source summer camp in Rocky Mount will do more than just teach kids how to code

Children in Rocky Mount will have the opportunity to learn how to code this summer at a unique summer camp, RMA Code Academy. A true open source summer camp, the hope is that camps like this spring up in other communities across North Carolina.

During the week of June 15, the camp will take place at Rocky Mount Academy (RMA). Registration is open to all middle and high school students ages 13 and older. Although it is hosted at the private school, this camp is designed as a community resource for any students interested in learning how to program. Half of the seats are reserved for public school students and scholarships are available.

A true open source summer camp, the hope is that camps like this spring up in other communities across North Carolina.

At the camp, students will learn principles of programming, including problem solving and understanding the importance of digital in today’s world. They will learn three programming languages (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript), which in combination will allow them to build a website. The goal is for each student to build a small portfolio throughout the week to show the skills they’ve acquired.

Each day, an industry professional will speak to the campers about the day’s topic and share their path to becoming involved in the industry. So far, the speakers include Jen Simmons, a full-stack designer with a popular podcast The Web Ahead; Julien Melissas, a young web developer and entrepreneur; Allen Moore, a front end engineer at 10up; and myself.

Organizer Will Haley is the senior software developer for Boddie-Noell Enterprises, a company in Rocky Mount that owns 334 Hardees restaurant franchises. Boddie-Noell is committed to giving back to the Rocky Mount community and they encourage their employees to be involved with the community as well.

Haley knows the immense value that having computer or web programming skills can provide and wants to pave the way for Rocky Mount children. He says, “There is a desire for this kind of education around here, but no one knows how to get started.”

“There is a desire for this kind of education around here, but no one knows how to get started.”

Last December, he coordinated and taught the Hour of Code for Pre-K through 5th grade classes at RMA. Hour of Code is an initiative started by Code.org to introduce children to computer science and encourage them to learn how to program.

Now on the technology committee at the school, Haley was asked by RMA to bring a coding camp to the school. After looking at available options, they discovered there weren’t any that fit what they were looking for. Many were too expensive and they could not find any open source camps. So Haley decided to create his own.

The camp will use open source tools that many professionals in the web development industry use every day. CodePen will provide a platform to write HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and immediately preview the results. Files will be stored and shared using Dropbox. Slack is an online chat platform, which will be used to access the support pool, where professional developers will be available to provide coding assistance and offer advice.

Haley will also post the lessons, resources, and code examples to GitHub, making this a true open source summer camp. We hope camps like this spring up in communities across our state.

The long-term goal is to expand on the Hour of Code’s philosophy of building a continued interest in programming and computer science.

This will be the first year of RMA Code Academy’s summer camp. If there is enough interest, they are considering expanding into a year-long coding club and extending the summer camp opportunities to include children of all ages.

The long-term goal is to expand on the Hour of Code’s philosophy of building a continued interest in programming and computer science. “We want to identify those kids in the community who really want to get involved,” Haley says. “We can show them how you can do good by finding a local small business that needs help on their website or infrastructure and volunteering your time while also improving your coding skills.”

As the senior software developer for Boddie-Noell, Haley has a personal investment in these children as well. “Ten years from now, I want to be able to hire people in Rocky Mount from all walks of life who can come in and make a real impact.”

 

Editor’s note: EducationNC is providing five scholarships for students to attend the RMA Code Academy. Alisa will be reporting on the camp this summer.

Alisa Herr

Alisa Herr is the former chief technical officer of EducationNC.