The demand for technological literacy visibly increases as time goes on; what was once a science fiction novel or a madman’s dream is now the contemporary world growing into its identity. For young kids especially, technology can represent the mystique of creating at their fingertips. Projects like Code Camp, a two-year pilot program hosted by Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes
in collaboration with the Grand Rapids Public Library
, work to push this narrative forward.
Funded by a $50,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services
, the 10-week, summer-long program encourages middle and high-school students to design their own applications and learn the business end of how to market their app. Initially, roughly 40 students from the Greater Grand Rapids area signed up for the program. Kids from Hudsonville, Greenville, Grand Rapids Public Schools and even some homeschooled students participated. Half of these students attended weekly sessions held at the Main Library, and the other half attended sessions at the Madison Square Library.
One app recommended books to read, functioning as a mediator between GRPL’s library catalogue and Amazon. Users were able to read a review of a book and retrieve it from the library shelf or order it from Amazon. Another app enabled users to acquire digital copies of books in exchange for viewing advertisements.
At the end of the 10 weeks, the students presented their final applications alongside their marketing plan.
Junior Achievement’s Director of Education Greg Hampshire says that the presentation included items based on the program’s five “rules: “A report on marketing, plans on what they were gonna do to roll it out, sales; how they were going to monetize it, if they could, and that would include how much they were going to charge for advertising.”
Although much of the initial interest garnered from participating individuals was based on the goal of building an app, most of the students in the program learned more about entrepreneurship than anything else.
“Exposing these students to the fundamentals of business, I think is economically empowering,” says Hampshire. “So even if they decide they don’t really like the software development, but they really like starting their own business, or they really like this marketing or sales piece, it’s helping with career exploration for these kids.
It’s helping them build entrepreneurial skills, which, even if you decide to work for somebody else, being a self-starter is invaluable, as well as being creative, and being able to think from a different headspace than someone who just followed a set path to their career.”
Images courtesy of Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes.