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Posted On: 2015-09-28 08:58 AM
Posted: Friday, September 25, 2015 10:10 am
By SARAH RUF, Maricopa Monitor
MARICOPA — The Pumas turned Geeks for a day, and survived.
Geek Squad Academy descended on Sequoia Pathway Academy Sept. 16 and 17 for a technology camp aimed at getting students excited about the careers of the future.
Best Buy's famed Geek Squad offers the two-day initiative at no cost to participating schools, and last week's program at Pathway was about a year in the making.
Organizers invited other Edkey charter schools to participate, as well as Children's First Academy and School for the Deaf.
Students rotated through several stations offering different lessons in technology: digital citizenship, photography, digital music, robotics, 3-D printing and circuitry. Fifth-grade learners to high school seniors picked up tech skills in teams, separated by gender and age, with names like Digital Divas and LOLcats.
"They are very excited about the robotics," said Pathway technology teacher Christina Weeks.
While the charter school doesn't currently host a robotics club, the Geek Squad event may change that, said Dean of Students Nate Lamma. "This has sparked a lot of interest in (a club)," Lamma said.
Part of the LOLcats, 10-year-old Jordan Nikelson mastered her circuit board to illuminate lights using wires and buttons. "I think it's very cool and interesting, and a lot of kids don't get to learn this, so it's a privilege," she said.
One reason the camp's classes are gender-separate stems from the girls' reactions in co-ed teams when it comes to science and technology topics, said Dan Dolar of the Geek Squad.
"We find that when we break them up, mostly girls, they become really responsive, they answer more questions," Dolar said. "The girls are a lot more engaged. They are a lot less hesitant."
Dolar has been with the Geek Squad Academy almost since its inception in 2007. That's when the sole female on Chicago's Geek Squad at-home PC repair unit wanted to encourage more young girls to enter technology fields, so she started a girls-only summer camp at her old elementary school.
"In 2009, we included boys to bridge socio-economic gaps, targeting boys and girls clubs," Dolar said.
What began as a summer camp is now a year-round tour of diverse schools around the nation. The program is updated every two years to keep up with changing times in such an emerging field.
The ultimate goal? "Get these kids interested in technology — look, these girls are building circuits!" Dolar said. "We want to push them and inspire them toward tech fields they may not have considered before."
"Yeah, I love it," said 10-year-old Cienna West back in the circuits class. "I just wanted to do this so I can learn about technology."