With blueprints spread out in front of them, the students work to put together their computers. It might be intimidating to even some adults, but the fourth through sixth graders are enjoying the challenge. It’s the newest after school offering at the June Bug Center for Arts & Education.
Taught by Paul Tremblett, the June Bug Computer Camp is giving its young participants a real world experience in building a computer and learning electronics. The course of study, which fits in with education’s emphasis on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), revolves around the Piper Computer Kit, used in schools around the countr y and based on the research of a PhD expert at Stanford University.
The students will be taught to build circuits for their computers and write simple computer code. Coding, Tremblett explains, “is basically writing instructions for the computer to do things.”
As the camp continues, Tremblett and the students will use a computer with the same internals as they ones they’re building and learn how it can be used for big real world tasks – for instance, receiving images from the International Space Station’s four cameras and displaying them on a large screen TV. The class will also set up the computer to send tweets to the space station any time it passes over Floyd, which occurs fairly frequently, he said. Since those times probably won’t coincide with the Wednesday meeting times of the camp, each week the students come to the camp, they’ll review tweets from the previous week, find out where the space station is, and look at pictures of the countries it passes over.
The students are using the Minecraft story board to build their simple electronic circuits, Tremblett explained. “When it comes to Minecraft, the kids know a thousand times more than I will ever know.”
From the minute the students were given their assignments on the first day, they were enthusiastically tackling the project, Tremblett observed. “The kids just love it.” The students work in pairs, and that is the way it is done in the real world, since it is one of the most effective approaches, he added. “You’ll find many companies have people working in pairs for software development.”
Tremblett has spent a lifetime in technology. He was nearing the end of his last year in college and doing research as a chemistry major when he found that something more than a calculator was needed for complex tasks. Computers were beginning to emerge, and he was intrigued. He taught himself about computers and used them to do research in his major. He became so interested in them they became his new chosen profession.
He worked for 25 years in the telecommunications industry, retired early and then continued in that industry in the private sector. He spent a couple of years writing software for the television advertising industry and then left there and worked for Vonage. After he and wife Ellie moved to Floyd in 2007, he worked at the corporate research center at Virginia Tech for seven years, and then worked three more years from home for a company in Canada. He is the author of three books that have been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, French and Spanish and that deal with computer programming and software development. He has written numerous articles for technical publications.
Shortly after his second and final retirement, Tremblett said he met the former JBC director who later put him in contact with the current director, Emily Gruver. Tremblett was aware that the center offered robotics and legos in their after school programs, but they didn’t have anything computer related. “I know the value of that….so I thought why not help the kids learn about computers.”
Even on the first day of the computer camp, Tremblett was taking note of the students’ interest and how quickly they were accomplishing the tasks. “Already I can see some of them by the time a few more weeks come….will be looking for more challenges. I just want them to be engaged.”
(The June Bug Computer Camp meets after school on Wednesdays at the June Bug Center. Other after school programs include Floyd JAMS (Junior Appalachian Musicians) and Yoga for Teens on Mondays, LEGO & Robotics Club on Tuesdays, also the Blue Ridge Strings Program on Wednesday, Acting Out (theatre) and Musical Theatre for Teens on Thursdays, and Free Movie Friday on Fridays. For more information contact the June Bug Center at 745-6550.)