Tech On: Summertime and the learning is easy

As summer settles in, it’s that cusp time when kids are still enjoying “the time off” but adults and no doubt some kids are also thinking about the fall.

Summer is always a great time to play, of course, but from many quarters come opportunities to learn and have fun at the same time.

This is not just about summer football camps that communities enjoy as a way to prepare young folks for the coming gridiron season.

Those programs are well-established and well-attended.

Other fun-while-preparing opportunities exist, specifically the Gorge Robotics program.

They let kids who want to have fun do just that, while also helping bridge that summer season gap between one school year to the next, and the dual needs of recreation and education. Meanwhile, kids and adults are preparing themselves for the full-on robotics programs in the fall.

Gorge Technology Alliance (GTA) is hosting two more robotics trainings this summer: July 20 at Columbia Gorge Community College in The Dalles and July 27 at Bambinos in Hood River. These fun one-day workshops for students ages 9 to 14 will provide hands-on programming experience and challenges on the Mindstorm LEGO NXT robots used in the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competitions.

Trainings are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Each is $10 and includes lunch; scholarships are available if needed. Pre-registration is required and each event will be limited to 20 students. Parents are encouraged to attend to learn this fun activity with your student.

A Google Community Grant helps make the event possible. The Alliance is a nonprofit professional organization that supports, connects and develops the technology community of the Columbia River Gorge.

It’s one of several examples of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs that help make the mid-Columbia Gorge such a vibrant place. Another example is the award-winning e-car program guided by Jeff Blackman at HRVHS; you might have seen the fruits of that learning in the July 4 parade, as the young drivers darted through the streets in their sleek, silent machines.

Robotics and other STEM programs are about year-round learning, and it is exciting to consider how they will dovetail (to use an industrial age term) with the programs and classes that will happen with the new Columbia Gorge Community College Regional Center of Innovation. The center, thanks to State Rep. Mark Johnson of Hood River, and others, received $7.35 million in funding in the Legislature last month for the 2013-15 biennium.

The center is designed to be a rural, bi-state model for manufacturing, innovation, investment, training and education. One of the main priorities of the CGRC is developing a training and education system for incumbent workers, veterans and at-risk youth in the Gorge.

In it, students will learn how math, science, reading and social skills apply in the real world, according to Johnson.

“The result will be a trained workforce and a vibrant regional economy,” according to CGCC president Dr. Frank Toda.

And, no doubt, they’ll have some fun while they are at it.

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