TIFTON, Ga. — For the fourth year in a row, SparkIT Computing Camp attendees have started learning about computers and coding while on summer break.
SparkIT offers computer science education for Tift County middle and high school students.
The camp, which was held at Matt Wilson Elementary School, was the brainchild of Dr. Courtney Smith Lamar, who grew up in Tifton. A computer science professor at Clark Atlanta University, Lamar wanted to find a way to give back to kids in her hometown and decided that teaching them about coding, which is a rapidly growing field, would help “spark” an early interest and help kids get on the pathway to a career.
“This was another great year,” Lamar said. “We had 23 students to complete this year.”
Lamar said that in addition to teaching the technology, this year she instituted “tech talks” throughout the week from Tift County alumni and staff at Tift Regional Medical Center.
Lamar said she also started a new thing this year called Voices from the Village.
“I had a rich village growing up in Tift County,” she said. “Many of our volunteers were from the sorority and from the community, and I had those people tell their stories.”
Lamar said that having that community support was important for getting her where she is and she wanted to give back.
“Our generation didn’t have to compete globally, against kids from China and India,” she said.
“I really, really enjoy doing this work,” Lamar said. “We don’t take a salary, it’s all work that we do because we grew up in a house of educators and they gave so much. We have a responsibility to give back in their honor.”
This year, the camp focused on mobile app development and the internet of things, which is the term used for making devices interact and talk to each other.
“If you have a doorbell or a thermostat that you can control from your phone, you have these devices,” she said. “Knowing how to program those things is a skill many people don’t have.”
As homes and appliances become “smart,” the internet of things becomes more and more important and necessary to understand.
At the end of the camp, each participant took home a tablet and a Micro Bit controller so they can continue to learn and create at home.
The camp is a collaborative partnership among SparkIT, Inc., Delta Lambda Zeta and the Tift County School system.
Tift County Superintendent Adam Hathaway, who was able to video chat with campers, said that he appreciates the work and effort Lamar puts into bringing the camp to the students.