Mercer Creative Computer Camps: Engaging Young Makers

Robotics at Mercer Creative Computer Camp

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Looking for a fun summer camp for your kids this Summer? Check out the “Mercer Creative Computer Camps” at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.    Kids get the opportunity to play and tinker with robotics, game design, and Minecraft.   Students interested in media can experiment with digital journalism and playing with Google technology.   The camp experiences are designed for students who have completed 3rd grade or older.    The camp is designed to be fun while exposing kids to the fundamentals of computer science.

Dr Robert Allen, the director of the Mercer Creative Computer Camps, has become a cool mentor for me in learning about educational technology and designing fun computer science learning experiences.  I have enjoyed getting to know Dr. Allen through the Google Developer Group at Mercer University.    In our conversations, he has shared his experiences of teaching CS to college students and organizing the creative computer camps.    I admire how much rapport and respect he has earned from his students.    He’s a great teacher because he tries to design his learning experiences to be engaging.   I think students enjoy his project based learning approach while engaging their own interests.    One of my friends from work has sent her kids to the Mercer Creative Computer Camps last summer.   She’s very proud to share that her kids were so inspired by the camp that they’re still tinkering with ruby, game design, and robot construction months later.  That’s so cool!

To learn more about the Mercer Creative Computer Camps, visit the following websites:

Camp experiences include:

EV3 Robotics I: “This summer we have the New Lego Mindstorm EV3’s! This camp will introduce campers to the EV3’s. Campers will build a variety of robots and learn how to program them. Throughout the week campers will compete in problem solving challenges.”

Game Designers: “Campers will be in game designer heaven. They will learn how to design games with three different software packages: Scratch (basic 2D games), Alice (basic 3D games), and Kodu (Xbox ready games).”

Minecraft Strategies: “Minecraft is an exciting, engaging creation game that can be utilized in many learning activities. Campers will be incorporating educational objectives like building, sharing, cooperating, team-building, and problem solving, into the enticing strategy of playing minecraft.”

Digital Journalist: “Campers will learn how to create and manipulate digital media: sound, images, and video. Through sound editing, green screen trickery, and special effects in video, campers will produce amazing stories worthy of publication.”

Join The Google Developer Group at Mercer University 

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10 Community Service Challenge Ideas for Civic Hackers

Hack for change picuture
As I have started to share the story of the National Day of Civic Hacking with my friends, local designers, programmers and family, I commonly receive the following question:  What kinds of projects can I do?
I wrote this post so that you’re not stuck with “blank paper” syndrome.   Innovation is sparked by context, looking at needs and challenges.   When you attend a hackathon like the National Day of Civic Hacking, the organizers or event sponsors often share project ideas, challenge statements and support material.    You, however, do not need to limit yourself to those ideas.    I wanted to briefly share a few project ideas to help inspire you during your next civic hacking event.   Most of the project ideas come from a community known as “Random Hacks of Kindness.”   Please consider joining us and citizens around the nation in the National Day of Civic Hacking. (see details below)   It will be a fun and innovative weekend of community service to YOUR community.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out the following:


Hack for Change 2014

InspiredToEducate.NET Posts Growing an Awesome City through a Culture of Making

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Maker spaces are starting all across the country providing a welcoming environment for tinkering and inventing.  In these spaces, you’ll find programmers building cool apps.   In the same space, you might find a class of young people learning how to build their first Arduino project.  You might find an inventor prototyping components for a new product using the 3D printer.   In this past week, I had an opportunity to experience a vibrant Maker community in Augusta, Georgia called   In this post, I want to share a few ideas from this community for growing your city.

How does Support the Augusta, Georgia Community?

  • Supporting Young Makers: The community actively encourages young people to appreciate science, technology, engineering, art, and math through their “Young Makers” program.   Class topics can include web programming, Manga, Arduino programming, 3D printing, and much more.  Mr. Charles Gantt shared his experiences organizing and leading some of their Young Maker events.  At times, kids have a hard time feeling welcome with their peers in a traditional school environment.   Charles has been encouraged that their Young Maker events often provide an environment where these kids feel a sense of welcoming and belonging.  (Very cool!)   The kids can really get into their building projects.   In many cases, the students don’t want to go home.
  • Creating Jobs: The community attracts people engaged in tinkering and technology.   Some community members who met through the organization have started building start-ups in Augusta together.   (Check out   In other cases, a job seeker meets a potential employer through an event.  In this case, acts as a social connector for job creation.
  • Community Innovation: I would encourage you to check out the social media feeds on Twitter and FaceBook to see the output of the group.   In the past weekend, the community participated in the international NASA space apps challenge.   It’s fun to see the new ideas and projects from people who are passionate about technology and helping others be successful.   Great ideas need to be spread and shared.   The community has hosted TedX events in their space.
  • Supporting the “Cool” vibe of Augusta:   I think it’s awesome that the community is actively leading the block party in late May.   The event helps to connect the community of artists in Augusta to the community of hackers.   Very fun and cool!
How do you support an awesome Maker community?
Charles mentioned that everyone in the community wants to make something that they can feel proud of.    I think these citizens of Augusta, Georgia have built something that is very special: a welcoming and innovative Maker community.   I appreciated Eric Parker, Grace Belangia, Charles J Gantt, and Vinnie Ingallinera for sharing their experiences.   I wanted to share some of their tips for building a Maker community in your area.
  • When you’re building your own space, do not immediately start purchasing expensive equipment.   Focus on building the community.   With the community feedback and support, collaboratively start making tool purchase decisions.
  • The community is generous.   In many cases, the community will share personal resources for the benefit of the community.
  • Partner with user groups and community groups in your area.
  • Encourage of a culture of pride.   The community should be proud of EVERYTHING it does.   This applies to teaching, building a culture, or making cool stuff.
  • Find ways to serve your greater community.
  • Find Makers.   Help those Makers become successful in their passion.
  • Encourage a DEMO culture.   If you spend time in the community space, at the end of the day, you are encouraged to share the product of your work with the community.    It’s kind of like “show and tell” for Makers.   It helps others to learn from your experience.  It might trigger other innovations too.
  • How do you financially support the space of the community?
    • is supported through monthly memberships.
    • The community regularly sponsors events.   In many cases, the events are sponsored by community partners and companies.
    • In the future, the community will be supported by grants.
    • In the future, the community will be supported by co-working space membership fees.
I want to express my thanks to Eric, Grace, Charles, and Vinnie for taking time from their busy schedules to share the story of .   I also want to thank Brent Lanford from Middle Georgia Regional Commission for inviting me to tour this community space.  It was SO fun taking a road trip with him and his team to visit this maker space.   Thank you Kristi and Robert for the great road trip conversation.   I’m excited to work with Brent and other community leaders to grow a Maker culture in Macon and Warner Robins, Georgia.
People to follow from
  • Eric Parker @ep_aia: architect+entrepreneur, designing a box where the outside is in, and then thinking outside the box again @HackAugusta @_Clubhouse
  • Grace Belangia @GraceBelangia: The girl in green. TEDx Organizer, HACKAugusta,, triathlete, event planning. Connecting, communicating and collaborating with your community.
  • Charles J Gantt @CharlesJGantt: | Tech Journalist | Reviewer | Maker | Drupal Developer | Gamer | Writer | Photographer | Kayaker | 3D Printer | DIY Electronics Geek | Tech Junkie
  • Vinnie Ingallinera @TonyStarkWannaB: This wanna be Tony Stark is masculine, malevolent,and mysterious; with a penchant for both the adventurous and intriguing.