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At Capitol summer camp, high schoolers harness the power of coding

You can see the level of concentration in their expressions. It’s intense

Dr. Sandy Antunes assists a young coder at a Capitol summer camp
Danny Ortiz-Neira (left) and Dr. Sandy Antunes troubleshoot a program.

At Capitol’s summer coding camp, which kicked off on July 30th, aspiring programmers are unlocking tools they can use for anything from programming a game to managing their expenses.

These are serious programming skills – and the participants are clearly intent on mastering them. Lights are dimmed. Voices are kept low. The mentors, Capitol professor Alexander “Sandy” Antunes and teaching assistants Chris Finch and Jonathan Liao, work one on one with these young coders, assisting then with the inevitable conundrums – a syntax glitch here, an undefined variable there.

“It’s essentially a one-week boot camp,” Antunes says. “Last year, when we ran this camp for the first time, we had great students. This year, they’re double-awesome. They keep asking for more – we burned through three days of material in the first two days. In fact, I had to prepare additional material in order to keep up with them!”

“The general principle behind the camp is for high school students with an interest in coding to come in and do hands-on,” he said.

Over the course of five days, the participants went from learning about variables and loops to designing their own games and animations, complete with real-time controls and multiplayer capabilities.

 Participants have also been experimenting with other applications, such as writing a budget-tracking program to help manage monthly expenses, Antunes said. And more than a few have shown a keen interest in cybersecurity.

“This group is really intent on diving in, and we’re giving them the environment to do that,” he said.

The advanced coding camp is one of several programs Capitol has offered this summer. Two cyber camps – basic and advanced – took place earlier in the summer, and a gaming camp will be held from August 6 through 13.