PUTNAM COUNTY — The loss of grant funding has put next year’s summer technology camp at the Putnam County Educational Service Center in jeopardy.
The camp, started by Andrew Hughes, a Columbus Grove native, has been offered to middle school students for 13 years including this year. Nearly 800 Putnam County have taken part in the five-day camp. One week is held for students in fifth and sixth graders and another week of camp was held for seventh and eighth graders.
The camp has been funded by the 21st Century Grant and Safe Schools and Healthy Students Grant. Kathy Hartman, the gifted coordinator at the Putnam County Educational Service Center, said this is the last year the ESC will receive the grants.
She said it costs approximately $5000 per week to hold the class. This covers costs for items such as robotic kits, jump drives and miscellaneous expenses. Andrew and his brother Alex, who helps teach the class, do not charge for their time. They only charge for expenses such as mileage. The Educational Service Center provides in-kind donations including use of the computer room and utilities.
Students are not charged for the camp, but pack their own lunches for each day except Friday when a pizza party is held for the students. Each camp is limited to 30 students to allow each student to have access to a computer in the room.
“This year the camps were filled in 31 minutes,” Hughes said.
Kathy Hartman said they send out fliers to students going into these four grades before the end of the year. The registration is only open via telephone during certain hours on a specific day. “We were surprised how fast the classes filled up,” Hartman said.
“Every year we are having to add more to what we teach,” Hughes said. “The students are picking up things faster. I hate to see this end,” he said. “It is an amazing and positive experience for these students.”
Students during this year’s camp had many reasons for signing up.
“My brother was in it and said it was fun,” an eighth grade girl said. Another girl said she had been in the camp before and liked to make videos. This year the students are using kits to make and code remote control cars.
Hartman said they may have to seek corporate or private donations to keep the camp operating.
“I’ve told the students I will come back as long as I am able,” Hughes said.
Hughes and brother attended the camp when in middle school in Columbus Grove. They later came back to run the program. Andrew Hughes owns Designing Digitally Inc., and teaches at the college level. The camp is geared toward free software. Each pupil receives a free jump drive already loaded with software used during the camp.