“You can’t find your website? We’re going to need to help you with that,” Derick Pearson tells a camper squinting at a laptop at New Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Liberty City before a summer camp “pitch session.”
Pearson, a co-founder of the nonprofit Code Fever, is getting ready to give out accolades and prize money to a group of kids who have spent part of the summer learning the fundamentals of web and app design, now set to present their work before an audience.
First, they have to remember their passwords. “That’s XX Gamer Killer 86!” one camper cries out in relief after several failed attempts. “It’s XX Gamer Killer 11.”
His Pokemon-themed website projected high on the church wall above him, 9-year-old Makai Maycock opens his presentation with a mischievous grin. “OK. So we know Pokemon ain’t real,” he says.
To Makai, the appeal of the coding portion of the camp is obvious. “It’s a computer, so a kid is going to be stuck on the computer. They don’t care what they’re going to be doing. They just want to get on the computer.”
Pearson says the goal of the program is to transform kids like Makai from technology consumers into technology creators. “When you teach them how to build the basic structure of a website and then you have them add one image…it’s like, ‘Oh my god, I created something! I created something!’” Pearson says.
The websites are a work in progress, but that transformation is already underway.