UCSD camp lets teens exercise tech talents

When asked in September how they spent their summer vacations, the students in a high-tech camp at UCSD will be able to answer: “Productively.”

While their peers were home playing video games, students ages 7 to 17 from La Jolla and environs and as far away as Shanghai, China, were busy creating them in iD Tech Camps.

“The idea is to plant the seed into students’ minds that things that interest them can be turned into a career,” said Sultan Rana, iD Tech Camp director from Toronto, Canada. “When they come here they realize there’s just so much they can do.”

In weeklong sessions — some day camps, in-residence — that continue through Aug. 6, beginning to advanced students were building their own 2D and 3D video games, as well as designing websites, iPhone applications, robots and 3D models and animations working in small groups in university computer labs.

ID refers to internal drive, and this is the 11th year in which UCSD has participated in the horizon-broadening youth computer camp program.

Kids are inspired by iD Tech Camp, Rana said. “You have those teachable moments when the kids ask, ‘What made you want to be what you wanted to be?’ And you tell them about the forks in the road and your approach and how you made your (career) decision and that really helps a lot of kids.”

On a tour through Warren Student Activities Center on UCSD campus last week, teens were bent over computer keyboards thoroughly engaged in video game manipulation. And the games being created and played by them were as whimsical and imaginative as they were stimulating and challenging.

Courtney, a pre-teen, was busy originating her own video game involving theft of dinosaurs.

“You can make the game in five days,” she said.

An older student, Sean, said he was getting a lot out of the program.

“I’m really learning a lot about computer programming,” he said. “I get to make my own games, make the characters. It’s all really fun.”

The degree of difficulty varied though, he added.

“Making the characters really is pretty easy,” he said. “Programming them is harder.”

ID Tech Camp students can work together or independently and all skill levels are accommodated.

“We make sure, whatever level you’re at, that you’re going to come in and hit the ground running,” Rana said. “We never exceed the ratio of one (teacher) to eight (pupils).”

When students “graduate” from the camp, they also get a bonus: discounts on Adobe, Apple and Microsoft software.

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