RIT’s Kids on Campus summer program provides hands-on learning for hundreds of young learners

RIT faculty and students lead workshops in everything from game design to textiles

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A. Sue Weisler

Cooper DeJoy, a seventh grader at Calkins Road Middle School, works on his drawing in the Character Design for Manga, Comics and Illustration class, one of the new offerings in RIT’s Kids on Campus summer program. The workshop covers various traditional drawing techniques as well as Adobe Photoshop, focusing on faces and hands.

Friday marked the end of three fun weeks of learning at Rochester Institute of Technology for hundreds of elementary, middle and high school students enrolled in the annual Kids on Campus summer program.

Celebrating its 34th year, Kids on Campus is RIT’s largest and oldest summer camp program and provides custom-tailored instruction for enthusiastic learners in grades five through 12. Students enroll in one- or two-week workshops taught by RIT faculty and students to learn skills including computer coding, American Sign Language, restaurant management and more. This year, 180 to 235 students have been in attendance each week.

“The workshops we offer are reflective of the wide array of majors here at RIT,” said Rose Khan, program director. “We hope the students who come get a taste of a field they are interested in and it inspires a lifelong passion that they persue after high school.”

Sara Nuffer and Mitch Leadley, two RIT students from Pittsford, N.Y., are teaching workshops in game design. They got some of their first exposure to game design while attending Kids on Campus as campers leading up to their senior year of high school in 2012. The camp experience left an impression on Leadley, a fourth-year game design and development student, who still recalls his first project: “I remember learning how to code a game with C# using Visual Studio.”

And now that the student has become the master, Leadley has found that leading Kids on Campus workshops helps keep his own skills sharp over the summer. “Leading these workshops has helped me be better at coding,” said Leadley. “The kids will come up with creative ideas and ask, ‘how do I do this?’ Sometimes I have to say, ‘I don’t know, but let’s find out,’ and quickly come up with a solution.”

“We get really brilliant kids in our workshops every year, kids trying to get ahead,” said Nuffer, a fourth-year new media design student. “This week we are showing them how to create their own versions simple internet flash games and Atari games. The kids have been really attentive and you can tell they want to be here. They have been moving pretty fast through the activities.”

Leadley and Nuffer have been leading workshops for two years now, and Leadley seems most satisfied by helping young minds connect with kindred spirits about subjects they love. “You can tell some of the campers are natural-born coders, so it’s fun just talking about the games we love to play,” said Leadley. “We have one repeat camper who just loves to help others. When she finished her activities, instead of sitting around and playing games, she went around the room helping others finish. It’s pretty cool to see.”

RIT Kids on Campus allows elementary, middle and high school students to unleash creativity and develop critical thinking skills in a variety of disciplines including computing, science, engineering, math and the visual arts. To learn more about RIT’s K-12 camps and workshops, go to https://www.rit.edu/academicaffairs/k12academy/.