DSU Computer Camps Teach Youth Valuable Tech Skills

DSU-Girls-Go-Digital

Friday, April 17th, 2015

Offering participants the opportunity to create their own games, dissect computers and use Play-Doh and bananas as keyboards, Dixie State University’s computer camps are a great way to keep youths’ minds active during summer vacation while addressing a far-reaching issue: a lack of qualified employees available to fill the growing number of open positions in the technology sector.

In an effort to prepare students to fill these vacancies, the Utah State Legislature granted Dixie State University and Southern Utah University each $280,000 for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. With its funding, Dixie State will focus on the technology

component of STEM, as there are approximately 20,000 open positions for programmers, developers, computer engineers, and other professionals with technology backgrounds within 300 miles of St. George.

“Industry experts say the number one reason why the industry is not growing is because they can’t find enough talented labor,” Dr. Eric Pedersen, dean of DSU’s School of Science & Technology, said. “We are offering camps to younger students to get them interested in technology so we can fill the pipeline moving forward and try to meet the huge demand.”

The day camps, ran by Dixie State’s Department of Computer and Information Technology (CIT), acquaint 8- to 18-year-olds with skills employers are looking for in potential hires. Simultaneously, the sessions pique youths’ interest in a rapidly expanding industry and prepare them to enter college with a solid foundation on the subject matter.

“We feel that it is important to make these tech opportunities available for students at a young age for a few reasons,” Danielle Poulsen, tech camp coordinator, said. “Not only do the young students learn more easily, but these students are at the age where they are exploring their career paths and developing who they are. We want them to be aware of their options in technology at a young age.”

Designed for youth with an interest in computers and technology, Beginning Computer Camp explores everything from basic computer programming and micro controllers to pixel art and web design. Running from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 26 to 28 and June 1 to 3, this camp is open to students who are 8 to 14 years old and costs $75.

In an effort to reach return campers and students with computer experience, two new camps are being offered this year. Computer Camp – Level 2 explores everything from basic computer programming and micro controllers to Photoshop and web design. This camp, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 22 to 25, is open to 12- to 18-year-olds and is $85. Designed for students with a more serious interest in computers and technology, Computer Camp for High School begins with the basics and proceeds to go in depth on topics such as web programming, video editing and Photoshop. Open to students in the ninth to 12th grades, the camp will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 15 to 19. The cost is $125.

“It is important to us to add new levels of camp to allow students to continue to progress and to more closely adapt to the varying experience levels of our students,” Poulsen said.

Another option being offered again this summer is Girls Go Digital, a camp designed to teach 8- to 18-year-old girls how to hack, code, design and create using technology and computer science. Set for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 8 to 11, this offering costs $85 and encourages girls to consider tech jobs. Pedersen said that females often select their careers based on their desires to make a difference in the world and be creative while males are motivated by the potential to make a lot of money, so Girls Go Digital shows young ladies that there is space for women in the field.

“We want to send the message that you can change the world through technology, and make it a great place,” Pedersen said.

Advanced registration is required for all camps and is available at www.camps.dixie.edu.

In addition to reaching younger students, Dixie State is striving to meet the more immediate needs of the industry by offering Code School again this summer and introducing Design School. The former focuses on programming and web development while the latter teaches students how to use design software and technical skills to complete interactive projects.

These sessions, offered for free to the high school juniors and seniors and college students who are selected to participate, are taught by DSU faculty and professionals from the private sector. In addition to teaching material with real life-applications, the instructors scout for potential employees — an opportunity that translated to more than 70 percent of last year’s Code School participants landing internships or jobs.

The camps and schools both prepare students to take advanced classes in Dixie State’s CIT Department, which offers degrees in Computer Science and Computer and Information Technology with emphases in Digital Design, Information Technology, Software Development, and Web Design and Development. More information is available at www.cit.dixie.edu.