Science

Google destroys boredom with summer ‘Maker Camp’ for kids 13 and up

Above: Young makers work on a soda-bottle boat project at the Exploratorium, as part of the Google Maker Camp 2013.

Image Credit: Dylan Tweney/VentureBeat

Hey, kids! Check out these cool projects for young hardware hackers age 13 and up.

Google and the company behind Make magazine and Maker Faire have teamed up to make summer less boring by creating a “Maker Camp” on Google+, where you can learn to do projects, take virtual visits to high-tech labs, and have a chance to share your creations with a million other young people. It’s all online, and it happens for the next six weeks via the Maker Camp community. The companies kicked it all off today at the Exploratorium, a hands-on museum here in San Francisco.

“Summer is a great time to do stuff like this,” said Dale Dougherty, the chief executive of Maker Media, when I talked to him earlier today. “Camp has to be fun, it has to be engaging, it has to be social — and we think we can do that.

“We’d like to inject a little ‘making’ into the summer for kids of all ages.”

Well, almost all ages: According to Google’s policies, you have to be at least 13 years old to use Google+. But if you’re younger, and as long as your mom and dad say it’s OK, I won’t tell Google you’re there.

The kids shown above were working on a soda bottle boat project at the Exploratorium. But they told me about another project they made earlier that’s even cooler: a 600,000-volt Tesla coil. So, while the Maker Camp might not include high-voltage experimentation, there’s no telling where you might go, once you catch the “making” bug.

Here’s how it works: Every Monday, Google hosts an hour-long Google+ hangout with an expert maker. They’ll introduce the week’s theme (there’s a different one every week; this week it’s “transportation”) and talk about what kinds of projects you can be doing. This week’s project is a 2-liter soda-bottle motorboat. Future projects include a balloon blimp, a tailpipe for your bike, a toy car powered by a balloon, and a bike-powered phone charger.

Meanwhile, Google and Maker Media will post a list of all the gear you’ll need for each project, so you can give your parents a shopping list. Most of the projects won’t require anything too expensive: toilet paper rolls, empty soda bottles — that sort of thing.

Then, from Monday through Thursday, you can work on the projects on your own. Or hook up with a local Maker Camp affiliate — there are 120 around the country in places like libraries, where you can get together with other makers and work on your projects together.

The project goes from today to Aug. 16. Last year, about one million kids participated (not necessarily in the whole summer, though — you can do as much or as little as you like).

Google even donated some money so that Maker Media could contribute more advanced maker kits, like Raspberry Pi computers, to some of these affiliates.

On Fridays, the week’s theme will culminate with a “virtual field trip,” which is another Google+ Hangout, but this time in a cool location. This week, you might get to go on board one of the America’s Cup racing sailboats in the San Francisco Bay.

“Science and technology are changing the world around us, and we’re either part of that change, directing it, or we feel subject to it.”

Here’s your change to be part of the change and learn how to start making stuff.

Sign up for Maker Camp here, and if you want to attend, join the Maker Camp community on Google+.

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