Google’s Maker Camp Brings The Maker Movement to Teens Everywhere

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Summer camp is an iconic American tradition. Even if you’ve never actually been to summer camp, you know the images: lakes, ropes courses, capture the flag, and campfires.

Oh, and arts and crafts, of course.

For the second year in a row, Google is bringing the summer camp arts and crafts experience online with Maker Camp.

Don’t be fooled, though. This is the 21st century, and we’re talking about Google. You won’t see any macaroni birdhouses. Instead, Google has partnered with MAKE Magazine to bring a lineup of intense hands-on projects over a period of 30 days. Each morning, a new project is posted on the camp’s Google+ page, complete with materials needed and instructions. Each afternoon features a Google+ Hangout with a “maker” as well as tips and tricks on cool projects. The week caps off with Field Trip Friday, a video series going behind the scenes of some pretty cool spots. For example, the first week took visitors to Oracle Team USA’s basecamp, where they build the boats that race in the America’s Cup.

This year, each week has a theme. This week’s theme is “Create the Future” and features projects like a light up hoodie and learning to solder. The field trip on Friday will be to NASA, which promises to be pretty cool.

If you’re thinking some of this stuff would be hard to pull of at home, you’re right. In many areas there are “campsites” with counselors facilitating the program. Most of the projects are fairly simple, though, so if you’re in an area without a campsite, it’s still possible for teens to do them on their own. But, teens like to socialize, so they can also hop on the Google+ page to chat with other kids doing the same projects.

“Maker Camp hopes to foster the DIY (do-it-yourself) spirit in young people. We want each camper to see how much there is that you can do and how much there is to explore all around you. Once you begin doing things, you’ll meet others who share your interests, and you can collaborate to work on projects together. We call that DIT (do-it-together),” publisher of MAKE Magazine Dale Dougherty said in a blog post.

Last week I jumped on the Maker Camp website with my 3 boys. Now, at 7 & 5 they are definitely under the age range Google is targeting, and I am certainly not one of those handy moms skilled in any kind of crafts. But, we attempted the “balloon blimp” project anyway. (And by “we,” of course, I mean “I.” Unless you count chattering and jumping on the bed as the boys helping.)

The project was simple enough and the instructions pretty clear. We did need to plan ahead to get a certain kind of balloon and a certain kind of straw, though, which would be hard for a younger teen at home while parents worked. Ultimately, we didn’t really succeed in our project, but that was because my own kids were too impatient to let me try different solutions to make it work.

For the industrious teen, though, the projects at Maker Camp are easy enough to do alone, but challenging enough to require some problem-solving skills. The experience would be enhanced, of course, if they can do it with a group of some kind. Because everything’s more fun in a group.

This whole endeavor is a stroke of genius on Google’s part. They are contributing to the DIY nature of the next generation, which gives them great press. But, this year the program is also intimately wrapped up in the Google+ platform. Last year, more than 1 million campers tuned in, and this year they are hoping for even more. That’s a lot of interaction on the world’s 2nd most popular social network site.

Maker Camp is only 6 days in, so there’s still time for teens to jump in. Check it out on the website or at Google+.


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