We recently hosted our third annual Microsoft NERD high school virtual summer coding camp, a weeklong program that invites students who are interested in STEM to create their own arcade games using Microsoft MakeCode’s block coding environment. The Microsoft Atlanta site also ran their first ever high school coding camp utilizing the same program as Microsoft New England. Both camps had a fantastic turnout and were a big success!
About the Program
In our summer coding camps, local high school students get to work with Microsoft employee volunteers who act as mentors during the program, offering their knowledge, experience, encouragement, and guidance.
During the week, employees worked directly with the students as they coded and built their arcade games. In addition to collaborating on each of the student projects, the employees ran a Q&A panel, which gave students the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of a professional STEM career and hear about the employees’ diverse career paths and unique work experiences.
At the end of the week, the students presented their work, demoed their games, and shared links to their finished projects. This year, one student created a story game in which an alien comes to Earth to search for treasure. A few past projects include developing a Discord bot and designing a version of the popular video game, PacMan.
A Great Opportunity for Students
The coding camps don’t just help students expand upon their knowledge gained in their computer science classes and hone their coding skills — they give students the chance to explore engineering fields of study, build a portfolio and resume with the skills they’ve learned, and get a glimpse into what a career in STEM might look like.
During the camp, students started with a blank slate and learned how to build a mini arcade game using Microsoft MakeCode from the ground up. They were given the opportunity to create any type of game they wanted using the coding blocks that MakeCode provides them. The resulting projects were diverse: some were story-driven while others were focused on action or adventure.
“The camp was really fun!” one of the students said. “It was fun brainstorming ideas and what to do,” said another. Others said they enjoyed working with the mentors and liked how willing the mentors were to answer questions.
One of the students from our 2021 program said: “I loved the amount of attention that we had from the mentors and their interest and willingness to help us resolve our problems as well as to offer additional support outside the camp so that we students could pursue our interests. I also liked the balance between giving us guidelines for our game and leaving plenty of room for creativity.”
The Employee Experience
Our employees seem to love the coding camps as much as the students do.
“I love getting to help mentor because the students are so creative!” said one of our employee volunteers. “They’re always overflowing with great ideas, and when they see how to turn those ideas into real, working code, it’s not just fun but also empowering, opening up possible future career paths they might never have considered.”
Another mentor said of last year’s program: “Witnessing the students’ curiosity and slight confusion at the beginning of the week turn into enthusiasm and excitement at the end of the week always makes this experience worth it. As mentors, we guide them through those struggles and help catalyze those positive emotions, which is unbelievably rewarding. Also, getting to know the students and their backgrounds/stories is always fun. Their level of technical experience at their age always impresses me.”
We love helping young people discover their passion for tech and envision the possibility of a future in STEM.