07/09 - Technology camps attract Valley kids - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

07/09 - Technology camps attract Valley kids

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Posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2003 10:34 pm | Updated: 2:18 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Twelve-year-old Brian Bell isn't much interested in sports, and a strings music camp he once attended was surprisingly too loud with screaming children, he said.

The Scottsdale seventh-grader has been more at home for three summers working quietly with computers, robotics and science experiments at a north Scottsdale camp. He's not alone.

Olympic Camps of Arizona, and newcomer High Tech Kids, are both wired with high-end equipment — including laptops and desktops, digital microscopes and video editing programs — designed to give an academic alternative for students wanting summer activity.

"We needed something else to bring in those that are not athletically inclined to come in and do something else, and science was the next best choice," said Kevin Matusow, co-founder of Olympic Camps and director of its film institute.

The camp began at Mountainside Middle School seven years ago with a sports emphasis and has since developed a campus near Via Linda and 95th Street, offering science and technology, arts and filmmaking camps. This summer, Olympic Camps will serve about 1,300 families — down from last year's near 1,800 — and spots are still open.

The cost is $350 for one of the two-week camps, of which there are two more full sessions left this summer.

The technology lab is led by Ron Rossman, a retired Mountainside teacher, and offers a variety of activities, including building rubber-band propelled boats, a project on which Brian recently worked.

"I've always been more of a science whiz, not a sports or a film whiz," said Brian, taking a break from building his self-propelled plastic foam boat in the technology lab.

Mother Carrie Bell said Brian likes the camp because going the summer without keeping his mind busy bothers him and can even give him headaches.

"I think it's because his mind is going all the time," she said. "He loves to explore new things and learn new things and his mind is just going, and he likes to sort of act on his thoughts and be stimulated."

Nearby, students can work at a station where they burn their own digitally made music or mixes to compact discs, while others can play on computer flight simulators or program a robotic arm named Brutus.

The camp's gear includes about 60 Compaq, Dell and Apple computers over three labs, webcams and digital cameras.

In the film camp, students as young as 7 help create stories, shoot and edit them on Apple media software at the direction of Matusow, who also is an independent filmmaker in Los Angeles.

"I wanted to take everything I had learned and create a program where I could teach kids film, because there's nothing out here," said Matusow, son of Olympic Camps owner Mark Matusow.

"To nurture the young Steven Spielbergs of the world is kind of my motto."

Two such aspiring students are Dustin and Alexis Wenger, 10 and 8, respectively, who are taking their third film session of the summer.

"I'm not that good at sports," Dustin said. "I'm a better actor and and I'm a good writer."

Andarra Raiola, 11, said she's had the opportunity to learn and use equipment she wouldn't have been able to otherwise, instead of being a couch potato at home.

"I love playing around with cameras at home, so I wanted to do that with some of the kids at camp," she said.

High Tech Kids, new to Scottsdale this year from Texas, offers weeklong sessions throughout the summer ranging from Web site building to constructing Lego robotics. The cost of the camps range from $149 to $299 and operate at Desert Canyon Middle School, 10203 E. McDowell Ranch Road, and at 92nd Street and Shea Boulevard.

Six to 12 students attend each session.

Arizona director of the camp Janet Finden said the sessions boast 12-to-1 student to certified teacher ratio, and 1-to-1 technology ratio, meaning every student has access to some piece of equipment.

The school has 38 Dell computers, 30 of which were purchased within the month, new digital cameras, microscopes, scanners and CD burners.

Finden said High Tech Kids was started by Ginger Williford, an educator from Texas whose focus has been integrating technology into classrooms.

There are branches in Texas and Florida and this is the company's first year in Scottsdale, since Dan McMahan, president of Wireless Retail and investor, backed opening a site here in January.

The company also offers after-school, preschool and day care.

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