Photos by Glissette Santana.
When Willie Avendano and Nelson Milian showed up to the headquarters of their company, 01, in Wynwood on a recent Tuesday, the place had no Wi-Fi. A service outage in the area caused them to rethink their game plan.
In less than a half-hour, they would have 25 kids knocking on their door for their second day of Wynwood Maker Camp, where kids ages 8 to 14 learn how to program computers and use technologies like virtual reality and 3-D design.
Avendano and Milian worked around the morning’s hiccup, teaching the campers cryptography, how to write and solve codes (or “secret messages,” as Milian referred to it) using tools of the previous generation: pen and paper.
“It’s kinda like ‘Lord of the Flies’ in here,” Avendano said.
Campers try to decipher code after learning cryptography at Wynwood Maker Camp.
The two-week camp, held five times over the summer, comes with a one-month membership to Moonlighter, a makerspace a block away from 01, a prototyping studio focused on creating educational products in technology and gaming, where the campers take field trips. There, campers learn firsthand how 3-D printing works and see a laser cutter in action.
“When we take them across the street to Moonlighter, they get to see the neighborhood,” Avendano said. “They see how we became a part of it [and] really becoming more involved and understanding of where they stand in the big picture.”
The camp, a joint collaboration between 01 and Mano Americas, costs $450 per camper and emphasizes digital literacy, the fundamentals of computer science and electronics. But Ric Herrero, co-founder of Mano Americas (formerly known as MIAMade), said that it’s important to make sure that the campers are exposed to things other than technology. Mano Americas and Wynwood Maker Camp are supported by Knight Foundation.
“For us, it’s not about tech,” Herrero said. “Tech is what’s exciting and people want to play and tinker with all sorts of tech tools, but for us, it’s going beyond that. It’s not about learning tech for the sake of just being tech-savvy, but it’s about learning how to use these tools in creative new ways to ultimately address real-world challenges.”
The growth of the camp since its inception in 2014 has allowed the programming of the camp to evolve. The camp has grown to about 25 students per session from eight students three years ago.
“The kids kind of act as our critics,” Avendano said. “We ask them what they like, what they don’t like, and it really helps us kind of tinker with the lesson plans every two weeks.”
Lihi Ancikovsky, 11, said the camp will help her gain skills for her future career as a computer programmer.
“I like how [the camp is] introducing more kids into more technologies like virtual reality,” she said.
Lihi said that a field trip to Moonlighter has been her favorite thing so far.
“They showed us how 3-D printing is made and that our own creations are going to be there,” Lihi said. “He even gave us our own souvenir,” a laser-cut smiley face.
Besides showing them the newest technologies, Herrero said that the ultimate goal of the camp is to have the children be aware, and ultimately face, real-world situations.
“That’s the thing,” Herrero said. “At that age, perhaps, they’re not really aware of what those challenges may be, but you’re helping to nurture that mindset, where you’re applying a very creative approach to the challenges that you face on a daily basis.”
Sign up for the waiting list for the three remaining camps here. The next camp begins July 11.