Summer School for Geeks

Summer is coming. Anyone with students in their life doesn’t need to be reminded, and while kids may be counting down the days to sleeping in and goofing off, many parents have other plans. On this morning’s Geek Beat segment on Hawaii News Now’s Sunrise morning show, Burt Lum and I featured a few summer school programs that have a geeky twist.

Over at the University of Hawaii Lab School, students and teachers alike are focused on learning. The Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG) offers a curriculum that delivers “the best possible education to our own students, and… serves the educational research and development community as a seedbed for innovation.” And the lab school’s summer programs for this year includes courses for the technology-inclined.

“A bunch of robotics courses, programming courses using Scratch and other programs as well as A Taste of Technology which gives kids access to a ton of technology with great projects,” writes Brendan Brennan, a lab school teacher and friend. “During the last summer there was a heavy focus on mapping… they used 360-degree panoramic pictures to create Google Street Views of their school [and] they also used drones to create YouTube videos linked into a Google Maps.”

Students got to choose from a variety of technology tools, from laptops and tablets to Google Glass. And Brennan notes that some of the Taste of Technology students went on to a bigger project, mapping a school for Big Island students displaced by the Puna lava flow.

Meanwhile, over at Iolani School, the summer school program offers another batch of geeky courses. There’s robotics, of course, as well as a variety of science classes with themes ranging from marine biology to sports. There’s a session on video game design, and another on digital animation. You can even take keyboarding, if you don’t believe keyboards will go the way of the abacus in our lifetimes.

Notable additions to the Iolani summer program this year are amateur radio classes. Offered in partnership with the Emergency Amateur Radio Club (EARC), of which I am an absentee member, two separate three-week sessions will cover the world of radio, hardware basics, and finally the practical applications of ham radio operation. And the classes will conclude with the final exam for an official FCC license.

“We really haven’t done this for kids on Oahu in a really long time,” notes Joe Speroni (AH0A), EARC member and ham radio educator. “We will be using a remote Internet HF station on the mainland to operate digital modes. RTTY and PSK31.”

“While we could operate phone I think kids are more comfortable with texting — we will see,” he adds.

Each session is limited to ten students, with a few seats left in each. And while the cost is $200, the EARC is offering two scholarships for the Iolani ham class. For more information, call Joe at (808) 955-2496.

Finally, a similar partnership has sprung up over at Punahou School. Its summer programs includes a number of classes for sci-tech fans: animation, digital photography, robotics and game design. This year there’s a new course called “DataManiacs,” which covers big data, open data, and data visualizations. But Punahou is also hosting three classes run by Dev League, a Honolulu-based coding bootcamp.

The Junior DevLeague offerings are “My Minecraft,” “Hack My Planet,” and “So you Wanna Make an App?”

“All of our courses center around our three core values: technology education, collaborative work, and learning problem solving skills,” explains DevLeague founder Russel Cheng. “These classes will teach real coding languages used in the industry today and will serve as a toolkit of skills for any type of coding project.”

“We have students work in pairs in which one student is sitting down typing, and the other student aids and checks for errors,” adds Charles Nguyen, Junior DevLeague lead instructor. “Students are set up from the beginning to do tasks in pairs or groups… this is an essential part of how we teach code.”

The good news is that all of these programs are open to the public. While they can cost a few hundred dollars, I’ve spent more for “summer fun” programs that basically let my kids run around in a park all day. The bad news is, many of these classes are already full, and signups at this point are non-refundable late registrations at best. But if you visit the school websites, and make a few calls, I’d say you have a better chance than you’d think enrolling your geeky kid in a great class this summer.

Know of any other sci-tech focused summer programs for kids? Please comment below!

Jr. DevLeague Spring Break Camp at Mid-Pacific Institute

1 Response

  1. Jenny Marion says:

    Kalani High School has the Kalani Robotics Academy for all school-aged children, as well as the GTEC program that’s just for girls. Please see

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