Dixie State computer camps teach youth valuable tech skills

ST. GEORGE — Offering participants the opportunity to create their own games, dissect computers and use Play-Doh and bananas as keyboards, Dixie State University’s computer camps are a great way to keep youths’ minds active during summer vacation while addressing a far-reaching issue: a lack of qualified employees available to fill the growing number of open positions in the technology sector.

In an effort to prepare students to fill these vacancies, the Utah Legislature granted Dixie State University and Southern Utah University each $280,000 for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, education. With its funding, Dixie State will focus on the technology component of STEM, as there are approximately 20,000 open positions within 300 miles of St. George for programmers, developers, computer engineers, and other professionals with technology backgrounds.

“Industry experts say the number one reason why the industry is not growing is because they can’t find enough talented labor,” said Dr. Eric Pedersen, dean of DSU’s School of Science and Technology. “We are offering camps to younger students to get them interested in technology so we can fill the pipeline moving forward and try to meet the huge demand.”

The day camps, run by Dixie State’s Department of Computer and Information Technology, acquaint eight- to 18-year-olds with skills employers are looking for in potential hires. Simultaneously, the sessions pique youths’ interest in a rapidly expanding industry and prepare them to enter college with a solid foundation on the subject matter.

“We feel that it is important to make these tech opportunities available for students at a young age for a few reasons,” tech camp coordinator Danielle Poulsen said. “Not only do the young students learn more easily, but these students are at the age where they are exploring their career paths and developing who they are. We want them to be aware of their options in technology at a young age.”

Camp Options

  • Beginner Computer Camp | This camp is designed for youth with an interest in computers and technology; it explores everything from basic computer programming and microcontrollers to pixel art and Web design | Details: 9 a.m.-2 p.m., May 26-28 and June 1-3, for eight- to 14-year olds, $75
  • Computer Camp Level 2 | This camp explores everything from basic computer programming and microcontrollers to Photoshop and Web design | Details: 9 a.m.-2 p.m., June 22-25, for 12- to 18-year olds, $85
  • Computer Camp for High School | This camp is designed for students with a more serious interest in computers and technology; it begins with the basics and proceeds to go in depth on topics such as Web programming, video editing and Photoshop | Details: 9 a.m.-2 p.m., June 15-19, for ninth to 12th grade students, $125
  • Girls Go Digital | This camp is designed to teach girls how to hack, code, design and create using technology and computer science | Details: 9 a.m.-3 p.m., June 8-11, for eight- to 18-year-old girls, $85

Females often select their careers based on their desires to make a difference in the world and be creative, Pedersen said, while males are motivated by the potential to make a lot of money; so, Girls Go Digital shows young ladies that there is space for women in the field.

“It is important to us to add new levels of camp to allow students to continue to progress,” Poulsen said, “and to more closely adapt to the varying experience levels of our students.”

“We want to send the message that you can change the world through technology,
Pedersen said, “and make it a great place.

In addition to reaching younger students, Dixie State is striving to meet the more immediate needs of the industry by offering code school again this summer and introducing design school. The former focuses on programming and Web development, while the latter teaches students how to use design software and technical skills to complete interactive projects.

These sessions, offered for free to those high school juniors and seniors and college students who are selected to participate, are taught by Dixie State faculty and professionals from the private sector. In addition to teaching material with real-life applications, the instructors scout for potential employees; last year’s Code School opportunity translated to more than 70 percent of its participants landing internships or jobs.

Resources

  • Camp registration is available online
  • Dixie State University Department of computer and information technology website

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