The Goldies Send A Kid To Computer Camp – Lessons Learned
So. In retrospect, was it a good idea to send I12 to National Computer Camp? I think that it was, and here’s why.
He really did get The Basics at the camp, just as I had expected. Granted, those were the same old rusty basics that we learned in college twenty years ago – conditions, loops, arrays… The poor kids didn’t even learn any OOP. But, for I12, it was a good place to start. He was able to take it from there and develop his skills, more or less.
Second benefit of the camp, the one that I had not expected, can be summed in two words – good leads. I12 came back from camp with a lot of useful information, links, et cetera. He found out which languages it is best to use if you want to write a game; how to develop your graphics; and so on. For Christmas that year, we bought him a DarkBasic license, and he used it well. He actually wrote a game that works – until you get to the second level, anyway. Then it gets so fast that you cannot play, and you promptly die, so, technically, you can say it still works on the second level as well. He sent it to a contest, and got a prize… another DarkBasic license. He spent a year posting on a game developers’ forum, but eventually quit. Most of the guys at the forum were honor students, in 10th and 11th grade, and had a hard time dealing with a preteen, and later with a 12yo in the throes of puberty. I12 has moved on to the Newgrounds BBS, where his fart jokes are a lot more appreciated. I keep hoping that one day he’ll grow out of that place, and go back to GameDevelopers again.
As far as the socialization I’d been hoping for. None of that happened. Turns out, you cannot put thirty computer geeks into a room, give them each a PC, and expect them to socialize. After two weeks in camp, I12 knew the name of exactly one guy. They exchanged email addresses, but never emailed or called one another after the camp was over.
Should we send him there again? – To NCC, no. To something like that, I think, yes – if we can find it and if we can afford it, and if it operates at a higher level than NCC does. NCC has proven to be a good starting point, but probably not good enough for kids with advanced programming skills.
Bottom line – if your kid has an intense interest in something, by all means seek out places where he can pursue this interest and meet his peers that are interested in the same thing. It really helps. You cannot go that route alone, expecting to teach your kiddo everything all by yourself, because, for one thing, your kiddo may be smarter than you (as is my case); for another, it never hurts for the said kiddo to get out and meet other people. Your genuine interest and support, however, will go a long way.