Summer camp is back.
For the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Federal Hill’s Digital Harbor Foundation (DHF) will be holding in-person summer youth maker education activities next week. The nonprofit’s summer camps, which kick off on June 28, will be led by recently-hired DHF Tech Center Manager Robert Moore.
For four weeks, maker camps for two cohorts of elementary and middle school students — totaling 38 youth — will gather at the DHF Tech Center in Federal Hill. They will get hands-on experience learning 3D design and printing. They’ll also learn game-making skills with Scratch, a block-based programming language created by MIT, and computer science fundamentals.
Digital Harbor Foundation is also employing youth via the City of Baltimore’s YouthWorks Program. The virtual, project-based experience, called the Future of Work Summer SLAM, will include teamwork and design thinking, as well as opportunities to learn a new tech skill and participate in a podcast. In all, the org is serving 210 youth this summer.
Since Moore’s hiring on May 3, his work has been all about preparing the tech center for the in-person summer camp sessions.
“I came into a situation where it was about reorganizing,” said Moore. “[DHF] made the virtual pivot like everybody else during COVID. So the actual space wasn’t in any shape to welcome kids back in.”
The Digital Harbor Foundation has been involved in plenty of activities at the intersection of tech and supporting youth over the last year, such as helping the YouthWorks program go virtual, coorganizing the virtual COVID Slam for youth and fiscally sponsoring orgs like Project Waves and the Last Mile Education Fund. However, familiar tech center programming like the summer camps was on hold as a result of pandemic restrictions.
As of Monday, the tech center will be home to learning and making once again. During the camps, youth will learn the applications of 3D printing, how to turn a series of 2D shapes into 3D models, and work through the design process to create a unique project they can print for one week. The next week, they’ll learn basic programming and game design using Scratch.
Before being hired at DHF, Moore cofounded and ran STEM education business FullBlast STEAM, bringing engineering and robotics activities to organizations looking to give youth a familiarity and confidence with STEM skills. The secret sauce of FullBlast STEAM that Moore wants to bring to Digital Harbor and the camp? Making STEM education fun.
“I want to make it feel like it’s a time to have fun, explore and look back on the skills that you’ve learned,” Moore said. “Hopefully by the end of [the camp] their imagination is now sparked and they’ll have another tool in their toolbelt to create.”
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2021 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.