Tech Journey introduces its fifth class to computer programming at Tech Camp

Attention to detail matters.

And the incoming Des Moines Roosevelt freshman Julianna Punelli realized how critical it was when she was computer programming at Tech Camp this week.

She pressed the space bar one extra time when she should have hit the tab bar.

“When we were doing HTML there was one little mistake, it looked fine, nobody could figure it out,” Punelli, 14, explains. “It looked just like a tab, you had no idea and it took forever to figure out. It’s that specific.”

Punelli was one of nearly 90 kids participating in the fifth annual Tech Camp hosted by the Des Moines-based nonprofit Tech Journey that started in 2013. The camp started Tuesday and finishes today at the Central Campus of the Des Moines School District.

Tech Journey works to expose underserved students in Des Moines to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers and skills.

On Thursday, Punelli—an incoming freshman at Des Moines Roosevelt High School—and the rest of the campers in their second year worked with robotics after spending Tuesday and Wednesday coding. The day starts around

“It’s like a whole different language,” Punelli says.

Robert Nishimwe and Nadine Veasley went to the first Tech Camp five summers ago and now will be seniors at Des Moines North and Des Moines Roosevelt, respectively.

They kept coming back because they kept learning something new.

“I liked seeing what they had planned for us and what they want to experiment on us with,” Veasley, 17, says. “The first year we did Scratch and made this little cat talk. And that was cool but I wanted to see what else I could do.”

Tech Journey Tech Camp
Second year campers at Tech Camp work with robotics Thursday. Camp is hosted in classrooms at the Des Moines School District Central Campus.

Veasley said they’ve made a robotic arm and games in 3-D.

Nishimwe says him and Nadine aren’t the most adept at computer coding but being comfortable doing it is going to help in the future.

“Just knowing the basics,” Nishimwe, 17, says. “You learn something new every single day.”

Kim Spasaro works for a small company that analyzes data analytics and volunteered to teach two days at Tech Camp. She was teaching first-year campers and used an online program called Code Academy that allows each student to work at their own pace.

Later in the day on Thursday the kids were going to learn to create a webpage.

“In the tech industry, you don’t need higher education or lots of money, it’s a really good way for people to pull themselves up from their bootstraps,” Spasaro. “Learn this and break out of their social class.”

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Tech Camp exposes computer programming to underserved Des Moines youth