Tech Camps Keep Aspiring Engineers Plugged In

What comes to mind when you think “summer camp?” Is it a three-week, sleep-away camp with log cabins and dining halls? Maybe the term evokes sports day camps for baby cheerleaders or other athletic hopefuls, or even a summer reading program at the local library.

But for plenty of kids, summer camp is a way to get up on the latest technology. Campers, schools, and camp sponsors alike are seeing a surge in tech-based camps, be it robotics, coding, or video-game building.

SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering hosts three different engineering camps in July, broken up by grade level: one for seventh and eighth grade, one for ninth and 10th, and one for 11th and 12th. The camps include hands-on experience in electrical, mechanical, civil, and environmental engineering for your would-be engineer.

“The curriculum is designed by the engineering school itself and run by engineering school staff, so we refer to it as ‘authentically Lyle,’” Lyle program coordinator Christie Pearson said. “For seventh through 10th grade, we do several small projects just to introduce what engineering is and what engineers do. With the older camp, we give the students a challenge or a project, they take it and create their own idea, and then present it to their parents that Friday afternoon.”

SMU also hosts iDTech camps, a national program hosted on campuses across the country. With sessions in June and July, it focuses on STEM skill development through activities like game design, app development, web design, and robotics.

But tech camps are taking place across a much greater radius than just the Hilltop. Robots-4-U in Mesquite and Kids Robo Tech Club in McKinney are also in on the action.

“What we‘ve done is design a program for kids between seven and 14 for hands-on learning that really focuses on STEM,” Robots-4-U president Michael Hayes said. “What I tell parents is different from what I tell kids. The reason I make the distinction is children don’t want to know they’re learning. Kids hear ‘play,’ and parents hear ‘experiment.’”

No matter which camp kids and parents choose, Hayes feels that technology-based experiences are important elements to incorporate in summer plans.

“Every child is affected by technology. They need to build up an understanding of where it came from,” Hayes said.

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