It’s virtual! It’s free! It’s Maker Camp!

MakercampWhen I was a kid, camp entailed tents, backpacks, burnt marshmallows, mosquitoes. Today, it’s not necessarily so. Enter free virtual summer camp for teens–with rockets, animation, and (last year) electric origami!

Maker Camp, a collaboration between Maker Media (publisher of Maker magazine) and Google, takes camp in a whole new direction. Instead of swimming and volleyball, there are potato cannons, robots, and discussions with NASA engineers. “Camp” can take place anywhere there is a computer with an Internet connection. The virtual camp guides campers through daily DIY projects and connects them to each other using the Google+ social network.

twoliterboatIn Google+ Hangouts, makers, counselors and other special guests lead young viewers through a project. The first week’s projects include a two-liter motorboat, a rocket-propelled toy car and a bicycle-powered phone charger. The day’s project and supply list are posted in the morning and the hangouts start at 11 a.m. PT (2 p.m. ET). Participants must be at least 13 to have a Google+ profile, but many parents of younger students can use their own log-ins and do the projects together. bike-poweredphonechargerProjects can also be viewed on YouTube. There are even Friday “field trips” broadcast from remote locations. In some areas, groups of maker campers gather in “cells” to share the adventure, often in public libraries. Perhaps there is a cell in your area.

Reading the Maker Camp website makes me want to sign up—and also wish we could harness this energy and technology for schools. Can’t we figure out a way to have students spend more time figuring out how to raise the efficiency of their rocket-powered boat and less time studying imaginary boats on multiple-choice tests? Can’t we? Really?

If you use Maker Camp activities in your classroom (or home), we’d love to hear about it.

But I still want to roast marshmallows.


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