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Coding camp creates online game developers

Online gaming took on a new meaning at Central Lakes College last week. Six students ranging in age from 12-14 spent the week not just playing computer games, but creating their own. For the second year, CLC computer technology instructor Sam Esp...

Landon Mitchell's screen Thursday, Aug. 2, shows the game he is making called Taco Wars, during which a taco saves the planet from asteroids. The coding for the game was done in Scratch, a visual coding language created by MIT. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Video
Landon Mitchell's screen Thursday, Aug. 2, shows the game he is making called Taco Wars, during which a taco saves the planet from asteroids. The coding for the game was done in Scratch, a visual coding language created by MIT. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Video

Online gaming took on a new meaning at Central Lakes College last week.

Six students ranging in age from 12-14 spent the week not just playing computer games, but creating their own.

For the second year, CLC computer technology instructor Sam Espana taught the week-long coding camp, where students learned programming, animation and web development.

"We teach them the concepts of programming, specifically with Scratch (a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-created software), and then we teach them the concepts with Kodu (a Microsoft program for 3D animation) just so they can have some fun," Espana said. "And then we teach them HTML (a web programming language) and Javascript (a scripting language) to the point in which their last assignment is to edit a game that was developed in HTML and Javascript, and they change it and make it their own."

If students wanted to go beyond just editing a game, they could create an entirely new one.

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Emma Cullett of Brainerd created a 3D maze with apples hidden inside with the objective of collecting all the apples before the timer runs out.

For Cullett, the coding camp was about adding to her knowledge of technology.

"I just took a robotics class on how to build robots, so now I want to know how to program them," she said. "Last year I did another coding class and that was pretty cool, so I decided to do one at CLC."

For Brainerd student Zane Jacobi, the camp fulfilled a personal goal.

"I just wanted to make games and when I saw a computer coding class, it seemed like a starting point," he said, noting he wished he could change elements of games he played in the past, but has been unable to do so.

Giving students like Jacobi that desired knowledge was one of the specific goals of the camp.

"They wish to not just play but also create their own games, so for us it's an opportunity to make it fun," Espana said.

Problem-solving was another goal, but perhaps even more important was just giving students the exposure to computers that isn't available in a lot of schools today. Espana said many middle and high schools can't keep up with the high costs of ever-changing technology. He also noted the common myth that the current generation of kids are especially tech-savvy because they seem to be born with computers and phones. He said that's not always the case though, which is where his coding camp comes in.

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"When it comes to college, and they want to study computers, they don't necessarily have the skills," Espana said. "So I think we do a good job of fostering computer literacy."

And the students' new skills are a testament to that.

"They respond very well," Espana said.

Instructor Sam Espana walks through the classroom as students work on their projects during Coding Camp Thursday, Aug. 2, at Central Lakes College in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Video
Instructor Sam Espana walks through the classroom as students work on their projects during Coding Camp Thursday, Aug. 2, at Central Lakes College in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Video

Related Topics: CLCTECHNOLOGY
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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