To most kids, summer vacation means swimming outside with friends or taking refuge in the air conditioning with a good movie or video game. Not to these kids, though. This group of San Antonio scientists spent part of their summer designing their very own, fully functional drones.
A group of students entering middle and high school had the opportunity to create their very own drones over the course of a two-week camp sponsored by San Antonio-based Youth Code Jam. Youth Code Jam’s initiative is to teach kids and teens about coding and computer programming and spark their interest in pursuing coding-based knowledge.
It works, too. According to Youth Code Jam’s website, 90% of students who attend one of their programs say they “definitely” want to continue to learn post-Youth Code Jam. Additionally, nearly two thirds of attendees claim they want to pursue a job that entails coding for a career. In light of our recent discussion about the gap in STEM education and need for STEM careers, this is the type of interest we love to see kids taking.
Over the course of two weeks, a group of twenty kids had the chance to upload code to their created drones and program remote controls to steer and fly them. The team consisted of tweens and teens of varying ethnicity, gender and motive. According to San Antonio Express-News, one boy attributed his reason for attending the camp to the fun of flying and crashing drones into other things. One female attendee, though, felt that she had something to prove in coming to camp. “I’m the girl,” she said. “I can’t mess up.”
While girls in STEM environments often find themselves predominantly surrounded by males, we are taking strides to balance the gender variation in the younger generation. In the same way that girls can enjoy building their very own playhouse just as much as boys, so can both equally enjoy coding and programming their own drone. Youth Code Jam claims nearly equal attendance in their programs at a 48% female attendance on average.
Regardless of gender, age or nationality, we firmly believe that all kids can enjoy learning code and engineering techniques. What starts with building their own toys can lead to a lifelong affinity with STEM.
While this was Youth Code Jam’s first summer drone camp ever, Debi Pfitzenmaier, founding executive director, told U.S. News that the organization hopes to make the camp an annual event in order to boost students’ interest and proficiency in STEM concepts. “The San Antonio tech ecosystem begins here, with these kids,” said Pfitzenmaier.