The West Baltimore restaurant didn’t have a website before the Dunbar High School student got in touch with the owner. Now, the eatery has a full menu and specials online, along with pictures. It even has a presence on Google.
Outside, it’s a typical Baltimore City summer day, with soaring temperatures and shirt-soaking humidity. But step into a former rec center at 1045 Light Street in the heart of Federal Hill, peek into any air-conditioned classroom and, save for the shorts and T-shirts worn by kids from 7 through 17—many of whom peer studiously into computer screens—the oppressive heat seems a million miles away.
In one of the classrooms, a spacious room with couches on one end and a cluster of computer stations in the other, a dozen or so gangly teens, mostly boys, huddle around a single computer. “Show me your design,” instructs the camp counselor. A brave adolescent boy steps forward and explains the aircraft design he constructed on the computer, which he then attempted to print with the center’s 3-D printer. It didn’t go as planned—the tiny plastic-looking object the printer spat out was somewhat mangled and much smaller than expected. The group troubleshooted ways to improve on the outcome, then the next experimenter stepped forward to share his project.
These kids could be sleeping in late or canoeing on a lake at some traditional, overnight summer camp. Instead, they’re honing their computer-aided design and innovation skills at a MakerCamp dubbed Digital Design & Fabrication. Sponsored by the Digital Harbor Foundation, a nonprofit founded by former Digital Harbor High School teacher Andrew Coy, the summer camp aims to kickstart kids’ entrepreneurial and technology skills. The nonprofit’s other summer camp offerings include Circuit Adventures, Game Development, and Aerial Pursuits. Pretty neat camps for kids who like to mess around on computers and build stuff.
Then there are the summer camps sponsored by The Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth. With the center’s mission to identify and develop the talents of the most advanced K-12 learners worldwide, applicants need to do more than show an interest in attending. They must prove their academic superiority by performing better on standardized tests than most high school seniors.
The rewards of entry? The luxury to dive into an academic passion, be it literature or science or something completely different, and to meet other kids whose brains fire at the same rapid-fire pace as their own. The center works with kids from grades 2-12 who explore topics like Crystals and Polymers, Flight Science, and Civic Leadership. Some classes are held at Baltimore’s Hopkins campus; others in Berkley, California and other hotbeds of intellectualism.
Parents of today’s crop of campers would be hard-pressed to find summer camps like those run by Hopkins’ Center for Talented Youth or the Digital Harbor Foundation when they were kids. True, not many people were tooling around on computers for kicks back then. Nonetheless, the amazing choices available to keep kids occupied in the summer these days are way more voluminous than ever. Here in Baltimore, budding zoologists, want-to-be chefs, and extreme watersports fanatics can all find a summer nearby camp to satisfy their passion.