Education

Beaufort County middle-schoolers develop apps, startups at technology camp

Susan Dee, an 8th and 9th grade science teacher at H. E. McCracken Middle School, gives instructions to the iTeam students in her group as they prepare their presentation for the closing ceremonies of the week-long camp June 26, 2014, at Robert Smalls Middle School in Beaufort.  The iTeam program, which ran from June 24 through June 27, is a day-camp for rising 7th and 8th graders who are interested in technology and entrepreneurship.  The camp is put on by the South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics in partnership with Beaufort County School District at no cost to the campers.
Susan Dee, an 8th and 9th grade science teacher at H. E. McCracken Middle School, gives instructions to the iTeam students in her group as they prepare their presentation for the closing ceremonies of the week-long camp June 26, 2014, at Robert Smalls Middle School in Beaufort. The iTeam program, which ran from June 24 through June 27, is a day-camp for rising 7th and 8th graders who are interested in technology and entrepreneurship. The camp is put on by the South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics in partnership with Beaufort County School District at no cost to the campers. Staff photo

An illustration of Wonder Woman appears on the screen. A student jumps on stage wearing a cape and golden tiara and is quickly joined by T-shirt-clad teammates

Never fear. The Life Saverz are here.

The theatrics were part of a pitch by the group of Lowcountry middle-school students to a panel that included an architect, engineer, Marine Corps captain and chamber of commerce official. They were touting a mobile application they developed to help users stay healthy.

The aim of the app: "Building a super you," the group exclaimed after presenting a promotional video, animated 3-D television commercial and magazine ad.

"There are tabs to click with information to better your lifestyle," Tina Tran, 13, of Bluffton, explained to judges as they watched a video demonstration of the app for both iPhone and Android smartphones. The tool provided information about diet, exercise, allergies, yoga and pregnancy, a hospital locator and a "call 911" button.

The team's presentation was one of several on the final day Thursday of a camp for rising seventh- and eighth-graders interested in technology. The free camp -- Innovation Technology & Entrepreneurship Among Middle Schoolers, or iTEAM -- was conducted at Robert Smalls Middle School by the S.C. Governor's School for Science and Mathematics.

ITEAM used hands-on, team-based projects to inspire students to pursue careers in computer science, technology, engineering and business.

Google partnered with the Governor's School in 2009 to host the free day camp in Berkeley County and has expanded to other districts across the state. This was the first year the camp was offered in Beaufort County.

District teachers hired and trained by the Governor's School taught students how to use free software to complete three challenges, camp coordinator Lachanda Hare said.

The first required students to develop a video game to tell users about the basics of cyber security -- from how to protect their personal information online to identifying scams to discouraging online bullying. The second challenge required students to develop a mobile app to address health concerns.

The final task required campers to create a business plan for a tech startup and produce a commercial to advertise the business.

Tran was skeptical of the camp at first.

"I knew technology ... would be an important part of my life and my future -- so I knew this camp would be a good idea -- but I didn't think it would be so fun," said Tran, who won a $75 gift card for being the most "inquisitive, innovative, inventive and inspiring camper," according to Hare.

Ditto for Sam Richardson, 12, of Beaufort. Richardson's group developed an idea for a tech startup called Retina Security -- a home security system that uses retina-detection software.

"You don't have to be a geek to love this," said Richardson, whose camp work earned him a scholarship to the a week-long science and technology camp at the Governor's School residential high school in Hartsville.

Hare said the Governor's School hopes to expand the camp to other school sites in Beaufort County next year.

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