University of Vermont

Tarrant Institute Camp Promotes Tech Skills

The 2013 Tarrant Code Camp from Aug. 5-9 at the University of Vermont was created to address three critical issues in the state: a general lack of coding and game design taught in schools; the need to keep middle school students academically engaged; and a shortage of trained workers with software skills in Vermont.

The free week-long day camp sponsored by UVM’s Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education is primarily for Vermont middle grade students and educators interested in learning how to integrate programming and game design principles into the curriculum. By teaching Ruby, HTML/CSS and Scratch, camp organizers hope educators will infuse technology-based curriculum into their classrooms, which in turn will engage students more and ideally inspire interest in tech-related jobs in Vermont in the future.

“We’re focused on helping students and teachers at the camp gain some directly applicable digital skills, as well as to consider how coding can be integrated into their classrooms in general,” said Penny Bishop, professor of middle level education and director of the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education. “There's a strong interest in game design with its achievable challenges, immediate feedback and progressive rewards, as well as that creative energy of middle schoolers, and their desire to get online and build. Many online projects are collaborative, fostering communication, teamwork and leadership skills. This appeals to the social nature of this age group. We’ve also heard from a lot of employers that there’s a shortage of software talent in our state. Because middle school is a key time for career exploration, we’re hoping we can plant some seeds that might eventually help the state in this area."

Campers, who will be placed in groups of no more than 15 in the Waterman Building computer labs, will be taught in a hands-on format by an industry professional and a teaching assistant. In addition to eight faculty, staff and undergraduate instructors from UVM, participants will receive instruction from a professor from Champlain College; a professional Burlington-area programmer; a middle-school teacher; a Vermont district technology coordinator; and a high school senior.

Campers will also complete exercises on the logic behind programming; visit the Great Vermont Corn Maze in Danville, where they will perform guided programming activities; listen to a summit presentation from fledgling Burlington game design company Birnam Wood Games on how to get started in game design; enjoy hour-long activity sessions involving online gaming, tearing apart a hard drive or looking at microelectronics; and open activity sessions, where campers can enjoy computer use or gaming in the Waterman lab, or a physical activity on the Waterman Green.

The Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education, established in 2009 with a $5 million gift to UVM from the Richard E. and Deborah L. Tarrant Foundation, is also running a satellite Code Camp in late August in Cabot focusing on Ruby.

Information: tiie@uvm.edu, (802) 656-2641, blog.uvm.edu/tiie-codecamp/.