Aiming to level the tech gap in Savannah, a special STEAM Camp over the upcoming school break offers future leaders fun learning activities, such as building robots, designing video games and engineering in Minecraft.
"We usually start the week after school ends and run all summer until just before school starts again," said Clegg Ivey, co-founder and CEO of Forge(X), which manages The Guild Hall and hosts the camp. "But many of our campers kept urging us to do a holiday session (and also a spring break session). So that's why we decided to do it."
STEAM Camp offers all-day sessions from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 18 to 22 in three choices of classes: Robotics & Automation I, Video Game Design I and Minecraft Camp. The camp is open to students in fourth through ninth grades.
Ivey said as technology improves, access to tech increases and prices drop, making it available to more people. He sees a future with tech for everyone.
"When I was a kid, you had to go to where the technology was being produced - go to New York or San Francisco to pursue the technology jobs - otherwise you were likely stuck with whatever the local industries were," he said. "But now that is not true. We here in Savannah have the ability to build and create and explore technology while also getting to live in one of the world's most magical cities. There is a reason so many people come here on vacation."
With a long history in the tech sector, Ivey started as an intellectual property attorney in the 1990s, adding that "it really made a huge difference being the only lawyer in the room who actually knew how to write code."
Ivey said the idea is to create a fun atmosphere and make gaming a big part of the STEAM-centric education.
"The kids love playing video games and board games at The Guild Hall during breaks, and eating lunch next door at The Chromatic Dragon," he said.
The campers will get hands-on experience building automated machines, writing software, designing physical structures, conservation, resource management and more.
"STEM is an important movement to get our kids to focus on some hard skills that will be vital in tomorrow's economy: engineering, math, science," said Ivey. "We want the kids to grow up and build robots, not become robots."
Ivey and company felt it was important to add the "A" (as in art/creativity) to the traditional STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and math.
"Video game design is a great example: You have to learn how to write code, but you also have the creative and artistic aspect of designing the look and feel and the game play," he said.
Savannah is one of the richest cities in America when it comes to creativity and art, so it makes perfect sense to complement that strength with a firm grounding in STEM education, said Ivey.
"Including art and creativity in STEM makes it more fun and accessible, even to kids that might not otherwise be well-disposed to the hard sciences."
The week-long session includes robotics activities such as building drones, designing a video game or an intense Minecraft run. The STEAM Camp also serves to help Savannah become a tech hub destination, Ivey added.
"Competition drives innovation, and the next generation of Savannahians will be a big part of driving that process."
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IF YOU GO
What: STEAM Camp
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 18-22
Where: The Guild Hall, 615 Montgomery St.
Cost: Starts at $200; extra fees for lunch, early drop-off and late pick-up