Learning Is Fun at Tech Adventure Camp

Learning Is Fun at Tech Adventure Camp

Andrew McConn, 12, a seventh-grader at Liberty Middle School, proudly displayed his computer animation of a medieval jousting competition.

He created it during his Computer Animation class, this summer, at the Chantilly Academy's annual Tech Adventure Camp. Some 115 students attended, July 7-18, taking that class plus Photo Gallery, 3-D Architect, RollerCoaster Mania, Sports Medicine and Kidz Kitchen.

"You learn how to make cartoons move," explained Andrew. "I thought it was cool to learn something new. Basically, just being in that class and playing with the special effects was fun."

It was his first time at the camp, and he came because he "thought it might be interesting." As things turned out, he liked it so much that he'd recommend it to others. "It's a new experience," he said. "And this is the kind of thing that high-school students are taking."

Liberty classmate Ian Micallef, also 12, made a computer animation of "a kid doing a math test and having difficulty doing it." Said Ian: "I was trying to think of something funny and entertaining." He also liked Kids Kitchen because "you got to make different kinds of food that you could make at home, later on."

THE STUDENTS LEARNED how to make "Chef's Mix" — a snack combining marshmallows, chocolate chips, Golden Grahams cereal, raisins and peanuts. They also made spaghetti pie, turkey wraps, salad, chocolate pancakes and pineapple upside-down cake.

"It was really fun," said Ian. "I liked putting in all the ingredients and having help from everyone else. We all had different jobs — cooking, getting and preparing the ingredients, setting the table and cleaning."

Bryan Holland, camp principal, said everything ran smoothly: "Tech Adventure Camp gives the kids a good opportunity to expand their minds during the summer, instead of vegging at home on the couch."

Kelsey Voss, 13, a Franklin Middle eighth-grader, attended for the first time. "My mom signed me up," she said. But she's glad because she met new friends and took architect class. Said Kelsey: "I kind of want to be an architect when I grow up, so 3-D Architect gave me an idea of what it's like."

She also enjoyed RollerCoaster Mania, in which students created an amusement park on the computer. "This teaches you strategies," she said. "You figure out what kind of rides people like; you experiment with different programs to see what works."

"And you have to hire employees like janitors and security guards," continued Kelsey. "And if a ride breaks down, you hire a mechanic. You have to have a certain number of customers come [to your park] by a certain month. It's fun because it's playing on the computer. You don't seem like you're learning everything, but you are."

Brandon Robertson, 12, a Rocky Run seventh-grader, said students had to complete objectives. For example, his was to get 20,000 people in his park in a year. "It was hard to do that," he said. "But I learned that, over time, you could get different rollercoasters and change the admission fees."

TEACHING THAT CLASS was former Franklin teacher Tony Philippon, now at Longfellow Middle. He said the students liked seeing their amusement parks grow, and besides "keeping them busy for 90 minutes, they learn a lot about how real parks are run. They also learn about business, marketing, money and budgets. And they see their work pay off. It's not just building rides — it's also about having a clean and safe park and making a profit."

Tech Adventure Camp ran from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., each day, and Philippon said it's a terrific idea. "It gives students a wide variety of [career] options to see where they want to go," he explained. "It whets their appetite. And the kids that come want to be here and are enthusiastic about it so they really enjoy it."

Rocky Run seventh-grader Amy Neville, 12, signed up for camp because "I wanted to learn how to cook 'cause I'm a bad cook. And I also wanted to learn computer animation. I animated a frog and a horse. I learned that computer animation looks easy, but it isn't."

Her favorite recipe in Kidz Kitchen was chocolate pancakes that she turned into a banana split, topping them with bananas, cherries, strawberries, whipped cream and chocolate chips. She, too, recommends the camp to others because "the teachers are really, really nice and the classes are fun." If she hadn't attended, said Amy, she would have just been "sitting around watching TV and doing nothing."

Oak Hills' Lauren Verdon, 12, a Rachel Carson seventh-grader, especially enjoyed Kidz Kitchen and 3-D Architect. "My favorite thing to make was pineapple upside down cake," she said. "I like baking cakes, and I never touched pineapples before."

IN ARCHITECT CLASS, she said, "You designed your dream house. First, you drew it on paper, and then you drew it on the computer. I had a dog playroom with a TV and a couch because I love dogs. I learned architecture is not that easy; you might not be able to get the design you like because you might not have the right computer tool."

But it was fun, said Lauren, because "it was challenging and it taught me that I might actually want to be an architect." She was also happy to meet new people at the camp and said it was a better use of her time than if she'd just been home sleeping because "you get up and do something."

Sam Gardill, 12, a Rocky Run seventh-grader, liked Photo Gallery class. "We took pictures, developed them in the darkroom and got to take them home," he said. "I took pictures of a dumpster, a basketball court and a bike. I learned how to use a zoom lens, too. It was fun 'cause we got to take pictures of whatever we wanted and learned how to use the camera."

He said the camp's a good idea because "there are lots of activities, it's fun and the teachers are nice." In addition, said Sam, "You learn how to work with computers and stuff that might help you eventually."

Also taking Photo Gallery was Mike Johnson, 12, a Franklin seventh-grader. "I took pictures of my friends and a fort," he said. "And I learned how to put film in a camera." He also enjoyed the architect class because "you had unlimited money to put whatever you wanted in your dream house." And he said the camp was cool because "you can do stuff that, normally, you can't do while you're at home."

Learning practical skills, as well, were Jamie Byun, 12, a Rocky Run seventh-grader, and Lauren Rapp, 13, a Stone eighth-grader, who both took Sports Medicine. "I learned how long to put ice on an injury and what to do if someone is in shock," said Jamie. "I also learned how to deal with strains, sprains and fractures, plus how to use crutches."

SHE ALSO LEARNED some anatomical terms, what contusions are (bruises) and how to "fix people," she said. "For example, if they had sprains, we bandaged 'em." Jamie was glad to attend camp because "you get to meet friends and learn a lot about technology — and you get good food for lunch."

Lauren liked "all the hands-on stuff" in Sports Medicine — such as learning how to use crutches. "I didn't know how to fix sprains and strains before — or the difference between them," she said. In her second year at camp, she said she liked "all the variety" of the different subjects offered.

Meanwhile, Josiah Blocker, 13, a Liberty eighth-grader, was thrilled with Kidz Kitchen. "I've always loved cooking, but I never learned how to properly cook meat [until now]," he said. "We made a spaghetti pie, and I learned how to cook the beef for it and what it should look like when it's done. This is a great camp to go to. I'm looking forward to coming back next year."