One of the common questions parents will ask me is how did Beckwith Tech Camp get started? Like most people who suddenly appear, it takes years of practice and work to get to that point. I started literally in my basement, playing with Lego, wiring circuits together, and making matchbox cars through Scouts with a passion for all things tech. However, I was eventually given the opportunity to do something on a larger scale in my school and took off with it. I was given a box of Lego, three Ipad's and a couple Windows-based laptops and told to go at it.
1/ GET THE WORD OUT
The first thing I did was put the word out in the school community we were doing this and I needed expertise. This step was the most important step in our evolution because I suddenly got introduced to a tech journalist, a man who provided 3D printers, a lady who worked as a Microsoft project manager, a woman who built robots, two guys who started their own game creation company and a lady who worked as a graphic designer. Every one of these people agreed to come to the school and do a workshop with the students and remained available to us to answer questions. Six years later, I still stay in touch and keep them updated on how things are going.
Jelly Smeared Games
2/ GET INVOLVED
At the same time, I started volunteering in the local math competition, the local robotic tournament, the local electricity club and kept expanding the network. If you are wanting to start your own Tech Camp, build your human resource network before anything else. Through that network, I keep receiving old laptops that we convert to Chromebooks, Ipads that will run the 2-3 apps we use, Lego kits no longer being used, and funding opportunities through local Tech companies.
3/ GET YOUR PEOPLE
Once we were up and running, I am always recruiting new people. I am always shocked at how easy is it to recruit volunteers because they see it as an opportunity to receive personal mentoring in technology. I never worry about their level of understanding, just their level of passion. If they want to be there, they will learn. And after a year, they are able to branch off and start their own club based on their passion and expertise. As you can imagine, after six years of this, we are now running four tech clubs in schools, participating in five different technology competitions, have over 250 participants, ran a three week tech camp and looking to expand to five weeks next year. The biggest shift I am seeing now is people are calling me, not me calling people.
Enthusiastic people are essential to your success
4/ GET YOUR PROGRAM
Fourth, focus on the instruction. I am a firm believer in the adage of catch a fish and feed a man for a day, teach him how to fish, feed him for a lifetime. The students must have the opportunity to learn for themselves. I will advise, guide, direct but won't tell them how to do it. Give them the resources to learn, and they will figure it out. In today's culture, though, do not use written instructions. Use videos, pictures, demonstrations and keep it short. Insist on lunch and breaks and change things up every 90 minutes or so.
5/ GET YOUR EQUIPMENT
Finally, look at your equipment. It doesn't take much to get started. Have an activity where they are physically building something, programming something, coding something and presenting something. Use your own personal expertise to get started and build your network. To quote from Field of Dreams, if you build it through your local network, they will come. And you can count on partners like RobotShop
to assist you in your endeavor!