Summer camp helps create young computer programmers

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - GameStart in Ann Arbor isn't the typical summer camp, but it's got everything children need to have fun with the added bonus of learning a valuable skill: computer coding.

Nate Aschenbach came up with the idea for GameStart more than a decade ago as a way to inspire children to become interested in art, math, science and programming. He said the idea of fostering passion and motivation in children goes hand in hand with helping them learn.

"The phenomenon of play and fun is sort of built in to human beings to facilitate learning. I think that somewhere along the way, in the way our educational system is set up, that got lost. We're just trying to bring that back," Aschenbach said.

Skills are taught through video game design, 3D computer animation, Minecraft programming, Photoshop and other video and animation classes.

GameStart instructors work to show children that failure is part of learning and isn't something to fear.

"In our classes, a lot of times, kids will write code that sort of crashes the computer, or creates a huge explosion that blows up the thing they were trying to create in the first place, but in doing so they figure out something they never would have encountered otherwise. That's the kind of experience that sticks with you a lot more closely than something that's prescribed," Aschenbach said.

Another myth GameStart works to knock down is that math and computers are only for boys.

Instructor Stephanie Wooten grew up facing that kind of bias in school and said in many cases that stereotyping still exists. She said girls need to have confidence to follow their interests.

"Even if it seems like this isn't the space for you, or you're not being encouraged here or it's weird and uncomfortable because it's all boys or it's not where you belong, just try it. Honestly, give it a shot," Wooten said.

GameStart offers both topic-focused classes and camps. Visit GameStartSchool.org for more information.

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