Geek Squad camp provides hands-on technology skills
CYSS Summer Camp kicks off Technology Week
By Brandon Bieltz
Gazing into the shell of the machine, the 11-year-old thought about what makes the computer operate.
"This is the first time I ever actually done this," he said. "It makes you wonder what's in it."
Trevyur was one of the nearly 120 youngsters from the Fort Meade community who participated in the Geek Squad Summer Technology Academy at the Youth Services building. The two-day camp for youth ages 9 to 16 was sponsored by Best Buy and Camp Fire USA.
Child, Youth and School Services and the Army Community Service Employment Readiness Program hosted the event to kick off CYSS Summer Camp's "Technology Week."
"This Geek Squad Academy was a wonderful opportunity for our kids to get hands-on training and experience with technology," said Francisco Jamison, a CYSS administrator. "With STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] education being a major focus of our educational system today, this was a no-brainer for CYSS to participate."
During the daylong camp sessions, participants engaged in a variety of technology-based activities, from building a PC to creating music. Throughout the day, groups moved between four stations that each introduced a technology skill by Best Buy employees.
"We hope the youth learn about the inner workings of a computer and other technological devices, as well as participating in the fun activities that the Geek Squad has set up for them to learn through experience," Jamison said.
The Geek Squad runs 40 similar camps throughout the country, including six at military installations as part of the "Joining Forces Initiative."
Since the academy was only two days, instructors packed a lot of information into a short period. On the first day, participants learned the basics. On the second day, they built on the fundamentals.
"They get a lot of hands-on experience," said Norma Villa, a Geek Squad field lieutenant, who travels the country working with the organization's camps. "We find that when you get hands-on experience on something, that's when the kids take to learning it the best."
In the Youth Services building's computer lab, youngsters learned about programming by using a computer game. The game is designed with some programming flaws, which participants fix in order to play. They tweaked the game to change level designs and make the character jump higher or pick something up.
"The idea behind the flaws is they learn how to go into the video game to actually fix the flaws and in that instance they learn how to make their own video games," Villa said.
The programming portion of the academy was Trevyur's favorite part of the camp.
"It's fun," he said. "You have games and stuff and a different variety of things to do."
Youngsters also learned about digital photography by using a digital camera, cookie trays and magnets to create a stop-motion movie on the first day. The following day, participants were taught to extend the camera's shutter speed to write with flashlights.
In the program's popular digital music class, students used recording software to create their own song.
In the PC Build portion of the camp, youngsters examined the inner-workings of a computer.
"Kids get to learn how to actually build a computer," Villa said. "They take different components from the computer and see that it all comes together to make one giant machine."
At the end of the academy, participants were inducted into the Geek Squad as honorary "Junior Agents."
Many of the youngsters said they enjoyed working with the computers to learn more about the technology.
Jacob Ralston, whose parents Isaac and Danielle Ralston work at the National Security Agency, said the academy provides a unique experience that allows participants to work on useful skills they enjoy.
"It's one of the few summer camps where the kids get to do what they want," the 13-year-old said.
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