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As appeared in The Orlando Sentinel – article about our Orlando summer kids camps in FL

Brainpower in summer

By Jeff Rubenstein

The July sun shines brightly outside, but the students don’t notice. They remain nearly motionless inside a classroom at UCF, staring at computer monitors.

A deadline is on its way, and another full day of programming awaits. They won’t be graded, though. This isn’t a course for computer-science majors. In fact, college is far off in the distance for most of these kids.

This is iD Tech Camp, a summer camp for aspiring video-game creators, mostly boys, ages 7 to 17.

As the name implies, “Tech Camp” isn’t about sports, campfires or singalongs.

Celebration High School student Dan Lipman doesn’t miss them. “In most camps you do physical activities” he says. “And I’m not very good at those.”

Many other kids apparently feel the same way. While this is the first summer that iD Tech Camp has set up shop in Central Florida, it’s not the only one of its kind. The Orlando Science Center, working with Full Sail Real World Education, held a 2-week Game Development Summer Camp in June.

Learning to make video games might not be a traditional camp activity, but it isn’t brand-new either. This is California-based iD Tech Camp’s ninth season of operation.

The company — whose Web site says it seeks “to ignite the internalDrive in each student” — holds a series of weeklong sessions at 50 colleges in 22 states. The six sessions at the University of Central Florida continue through July 27, and iD Tech is in discussions with UCF about expanding the program next year.

In a modified conference room at UCF’s Fairwinds Alumni Center, iD Tech campers don’t raise their hands with questions; they place neon-green cups atop their flat-screen monitors.

Even though the subject matter is “gaming,” there is still plenty of work involved.

Getting up to speed

Campers typically spend the first day of a five-day session learning how to use software such as Beyond Virtual or Torque Game Builder. From there, it’s up to the individual how to proceed toward the goal of making a simple, playable game. Minimum standards are posted, which typically involve designing and constructing the layout of at least one virtual “level,” or playing field.

Dan is nearing completion on a map he’s building for the military-themed PC game Battlefield 2. “I’m working really hard,” he says, “but it’s been really fun.” Dan says he doesn’t mind spending the summer months in a learning environment because it’s “more free-rein.”

Dan’s level is designed to pit virtual Allied and Chinese military forces in a “capture the flag” contest, in which each group attempts to return an icon to its own base first.

During the course of a week, he created the level’s infrastructure and topography, including a valley that he thinks will be a crucial “showdown point.” When completed, he’ll be able to take on a live opponent on the map and see whether his project is fair and fun to play.

Despite the difficulty of the camp projects, the 20 kids — including only two girls — seem to be enjoying themselves.

Orlando Sentinel

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