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March Madness comes to San Jose

boy assembling project circuit board

I’m currently drinking an iced tea at Starbucks. It would seem natural for me to work from Peet’s Coffee and Tea, just across the street, but there’s no internet access. Can we get some Wi-Fi there, folks? People in the office are trying to hunt me down. I have told them that like Dick Cheney, I’m working from an undisclosed, secure location so I can get my blog on. Someone just emailed me to ask me to bring them a latte from Starbucks–so I guess I am becoming predictable. I’m watching the GoodYear blimp circle overhead in preparation for March Madness and the NCAA games over at the HP Pavilion. That’s kind of cool.

I’m a summer camp guy. I’m a computer camp guy. But, I love my hoops too. I played in high school and was one of the smallest guys on the court. I never scored too many points, but I was scrappy and always won the “Charlie Hustle” award.

I didn’t go to a lot of summer camps when I was a kid, but basketball camp became a tradition.  I have incredible memories staying in the dorms at UC Santa Cruz and Santa Clara University.  They both had great basketball camps.  These camps were my first taste of camp–and gave me a great introduction to the college atmosphere:  walking the campuses, eating in the dining halls, learning from great mentors, making new friends.  It was all awesome.

So, what do basketball camp and iD Tech Camps have in common?  I still have the “skills assessment” form from one of my coaches at the Santa Clara University basketball camp.  It narrowed in on a few areas for improvement…like dribbling with my left hand or moving without the ball.  It’s cool to take a step back and reflect upon the lessons and experiences from camp.  Without intending to sound corny, they certainly did help shape my character, build my confidence going into the new school year, and ultimately helped develop my competitive spirit.

That’s exactly what we try to accomplish at iD Tech Camps.  In fact, we just published a press release which covers the topic of how video games are being incorporated into homework assignments during the school year by some of our students:

PRESS RELEASE, Campbell, CA, March 22, 2007

Student Creates Video Game to Complete Algebra Assignment

“Get down here and turn off that darned video game!” Have you ever shouted something like this at your own kids? Well, be careful. How do you know if your kid is playing a video game, or creating his own video game to complete a homework assignment?

Like most kids his age, 13-year-old Jaxon Welsh loves video games. But unlike so many of his peers, Jaxon doesn’t just sit around all day playing the games. He actually creates them.

Thanks to a host of available resources such as easy-to-use software, school activities, and summer computer camps, well rounded kids like Jaxon have found a new way to turn their passion into something their teachers not only approve of, but embrace as a creative new avenue for learning.

Last summer, Jaxon attended a weeklong summer technology program at Stanford University called iD Tech Camps. During the week, Jaxson learned the process of making his own 2D video game with a product called Clickteam® Multimedia Fusion®. He developed a complex, realistic video game with everything from health meters to collision detection. He set behaviors for objects and characters while creating multiple levels. By the end of the week, Jaxon left camp with much more than a completed project. He started out the new school year knowing a lot more about technology, and this built up his confidence and self esteem. The first few weeks back to school, Jaxon applied his new tech skills in a creative new way—to get his homework done. He created a game for his pre-algebra class to help learn variables.

“Why should I use paper and pencil when it’s far more fun to do it on the computer,” Jaxon said.

Mr. Sperry, his teacher, was impressed by the game, which featured a student standing in the lunch line as the main character. The game would cut variables (ie: students in line) based on the numbers that the game player would input into the system.

“The game made learning math more fun,” Jaxon added. “The other students thought it was pretty cool, too.”

Jaxon decided to take his passion for gaming to the next level, but his school didn’t offer any classes or clubs. But that didn’t stop Jaxon. Within a few weeks of returning to school in the fall, Jaxon quickly established a video game club, recruiting—you guessed it—his advanced pre-algebra teacher, Mr. Sperry, to lead the team. Under Mr. Sperry’s guidance and using Jaxon’s video game development knowledge, the club now meets once a week during lunch and currently has ten members—the maximum amount they can take right now.

Jaxon is on to something big. The video game club not only helps students learn how to create innovative video games, but it helps them out with their schoolwork through a creative new medium.

If you visit Jaxon’s middle school, you may see his interactive presentations. His Incas project has a timeline where the graphics open up new pages, teaching information from various historical periods. For his Egyptian project, there is a man walking up a pyramid with new information being revealed with each step.

“The software is so easy to use and it makes my projects look cool,” said Jaxon.

With dreams of someday becoming a computer engineer or game designer, Jaxon is well on his way to a very rewarding career in game development. For now, he’s focused on overlapping his game development talents with his schoolwork. We’ll see what his gym teacher has to say about all this. Conclusion of Press Release.

FIRST Robotics Competition comes to San Jose

On a completely different note, San Jose State University hosted a Regional Competition for FIRST Robotics last week.  Go San Jose!  I got to see the action first-hand.  Wow!  Wow! Wow!  High School robotics teams from Northern California participated in the regional competition, and it was a very serious version of BattleBots, without the gore.  It was really, really cool.  The students wore creative uniforms, were cheering each other on, and were insanely passionate about what they were doing.  High school students can get a bum wrap sometimes.  These guys and gals were tearing it up.  Way to go! Sorry, I forgot to bring my camera with me.  Doh!  There were some great pictures to be taken.

We’re excited to be working with the VEX Robotics Design System for our 2007 summer robotics camps.  VEX is a major partner of FIRST.  These are two classy organizations.  We have developed a cool course called RoboContenders for ’07 which we hope will be used as a launching pad for future robotic endeavors.

Our students will be working in small teams to compete in a fun atmosphere.  Here is a blurb from our website in case you are interested:   “Imagine challenges like robot pull-ups, time trial races and versions of robot basketball, soccer and hockey…”  You get the idea.  Robotics is hot!

Follow up on the new iD baby!

And finally, to follow up on my blog from last week, here’s a picture of Sofia Bella Salvador.  Congratulations to Monte and Novars!  Hope you are catching some sleep.  I still owe you some dinner.  I’m on it!

Also, if any of you haven’t heard, yes, the “secret” picture from last week’s blog was taken at Alexa’s house!  She is well on her way and is expecting this summer.  I think she still thinks she can hide it.  But we can’t be fooled.  Ha!

Until next time, iD Nation!

-Pete

  • kabababrubarta

    Cool Site! kabababrubarta

  • Pete

    Hey, Kabababrubarta, thanks for the compliment.

  • Nova

    Awww, my baby’s first picture on the World Wide Web! Pete, it’s been about a year since you sat me down at the old office and told me that this company could change my life, and it has in so many ways. I can’t imagine how different it would be if it weren’t for iD. By the way, her name is Sophia, with a PH not an F. Did you get that spelling from her dad? I sure hope not….

  • Pete

    Novars. Good to hear from you. Enjoying your time as a new mum? Thanks for the comments. Sorry about the F. SoPHia it is!

    Let’s see. You posted yesterday at 5:47. Sorry I am a day late. You know, I just sit around waiting for posts on the blog. You got me!

  • NovaRRR

    I am enjoying it very much. I would also enjoy some sleep though too.

    Sorry I was a little impatient with the comments. I thought I would see it automatically and didn’t realize that you had to authorize it. It looks I posted my comments around 1:49, and you replied soon after. You’re meeting the 24 hour benchmark. I like it!