O'Fallon Progress

Metro-east youth sharpen tech-savvy skills at STL Wash U iD Tech summer camp

O’Fallonite Madison Wilcox, 17, stands in the hallway where she attends iD Tech Summer STEM Camp at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., in July 2015.
O’Fallonite Madison Wilcox, 17, stands in the hallway where she attends iD Tech Summer STEM Camp at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., in July 2015. Robyn L. Kirsch

While some kids were outside swimming or riding their bikes this summer or inside enjoying the AC and Netflix, 40 youth from the metro-east—15 from O’Fallon-Shiloh area—and 200,000 nationwide, were enjoying a little of everything—inside and out.

But these youth mainly honed in on sharpening their tech-savvy skills for a brighter future in the wide world of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and prepping for the upcoming school year during the iD Tech Camps, Academy & Online.

The program has grown exponentially since its 1999 inception—when AOL was the main search engine used, Google was one year old and the iPhone had not yet been conceived.

Inspiring students of all ages between 6-18, the iD Tech programs are held at prestigious campuses like Stanford, Yale, Princeton, MIT, UCLA, Harvard and Washington University in St. Louis.

Campers learned Java and C++ Programming, coding and creating apps, modding Minecraft and design video games, as well as engineering robotics. In a world where computer science drives innovation in both society and the United States economy and despite the growing demand for jobs in STEM fields, tech education remains largely inadequate in most K-12 schools. STEM camps provide fun inside and outside and high-energy STEM courses that emphasize creativity, problem solving and collaboration, according to Anna Sher, Wash U camp director.

“Studies show that STEM skills are best taught early in life and that by learning STEM skills children are better prepared for school and future careers in any field,” Sher said. “This is my fifth year working here for the camps at Wash U, I used to be an instructor and it’s my second year as director—it’s a great program and it has a growth rate of 30 percent every year.”

First time participant in the summer camp program at Washington University, O’Fallon youth Madison Wilcox, 17, said she was so excited when her dad informed her he signed her up.

“My dad teaches here too, but also is a computer security ‘hacker’ who helps make sure security (breaches) don’t occur by the bad guys,” Wilcox said. “I’m learning to code a text based game using Java and I love it. It all just blows me away by all the things you can do by all the programming stuff.”

Sher elaborates, “one of the classrooms, which one of our O’Fallon students is in along with other teens are learning the basics of Java Programming, like text adventure games and like call and response. For example they’ll type in a question and get answers that leads to building an environment, characters, levels and, in essence, a game.”

While she loves learning new things in the tech world like her Java Programming, Wilcox said she is quite disappointed she wasn’t able to register for the 3D Printer and design course offered at her own stomping ground—O’Fallon Township High School.

“The class was full when I tried to get in and it’s my senior year, so I guess I’ll go to another iD Tech program or take college courses to expand my skills and I participate in robotics as part of the mechanical team which is the best thing that ever happened to me,” Wilcox explained. “There’s so many things I can do with this, code simple visual games and use my imagination.”

Hoping to go into the field of Aerospace Engineering, Wilcox doesn’t plan on putting any limitations or expectations on her future endeavors and tech adventures.

“I’ve been looking into colleges like Western Kentucky University and Missouri University of Science and Technology, which is my dream college, so I’m crossing my fingers because I haven’t really committed to any university just yet,” Wilcox noted.

Sher chimed in with, “But she has awesome ACT scores—34 out of 36 on her first try—very impressive, I’m pretty sure she’ll have her pick of any of them when she does decide.”

According to iD Tech’s CEO Pete Ingram-Cauchi, and his sister Alexa Ingram-Cauchi, president and co-founder, “now the world has cars that drive themselves, smart phones with a bazillion apps, houses powered by the sun and packages about to be delivered to our doorsteps by flying drones.”

Starting with a home in California, no financing, no salaries and working 24/7, the iD Tech dynamic duo persevered on despite the odds and the “dot-com bubble burst” to grow what is now “the largest technology camp in the world,” according to Pete.

So what started with an idea between two parents and their daughter, who were well aware of the status of lacking technology in the classroom, moving to a studio above a garage overlooking Silicon Valley, Calif., has now grown to the world’s No. 1 tech camp.

For more information about iD Tech and other STEM camp opportunities, visit iD Tech’s website or call (888) 709-TECH (8324) to request a brochure.

Contact reporter Robyn L. Kirsch at rkirsch@bnd.com or 618-239-2690.