A geeky way to spend the summer

Best Buy and NFCS are host­ing the Geek Squad Sum­mer Academy at NFCS.


Blaze Hop­kins has been spend­ing his sum­mer swim­ming, play­ing wiffle ball and va­ca­tion­ing at the Jer­sey shore.

The 13-year-old, though, was eager to spend a couple of days last week at New Found­a­tions Charter School, where he’ll be an eighth-grader this year.

New Found­a­tions, at Rhawn Street and Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue in Holmes­burg, was se­lec­ted as a site for Best Buy’s Geek Squad Sum­mer Academy.

The camp was in­ten­ded to give young people ages 12 to 17 ac­cess to tech­no­logy and gad­gets to in­spire their cre­ativ­ity and in­nov­a­tion.

“Everything is be­com­ing com­pu­ter­ized now,” Blaze said. “I thought it would be really neat to be a part of.”

The Geek Squad star­ted in 2007 as a girls camp at Moth­er McAuley High School in Chica­go.

The camp proved to be a suc­cess. This sum­mer, there are 40 camps across the United States and in Pu­erto Rico, in­clud­ing five at mil­it­ary bases for the chil­dren of ser­vice mem­bers.

Best Buy em­ploy­ees Robert Duve, of Ari­zona, and Bri­an Hodge, of Geor­gia, served as “field lieu­ten­ants” at New Found­a­tions on Ju­ly 11 and 12. There are five teams of field lieu­ten­ants across the United States.

In all, a team of 18 Best Buy em­ploy­ees, along with sev­en em­ploy­ees of the city De­part­ment of Parks and Re­cre­ation and New Found­a­tions staff, as­sisted the camp par­ti­cipants.

The campers con­sisted of New Found­a­tion stu­dents and young­sters re­com­men­ded by oth­er schools, the parks and re­cre­ation de­part­ment, non-profit groups and the Phil­adelphia Hous­ing Au­thor­ity.

“Bring­ing in a pro­gram like this gives the out­side com­munity a chance to gain and ex­per­i­ence the re­sources New Found­a­tions has,” said vice prin­cip­al Shira Woolf-Co­hen, who ap­plied on­line for the camp.

The academy offered four classes: di­git­al mu­sic, di­git­al pho­to­graphy, PC build and pro­gram­ming video games. The youths got to use laptop com­puters and also play Play­Sta­tion 3, Xbox 360, Gui­tar Hero and Mad­den NFL. The cost was $40, which in­cluded lunch, a T-shirt and a back­pack.

Gio­vanna Clem­ens, a 14-year-old who’ll be a ninth-grader at New Found­a­tions, en­joyed learn­ing how to fix and im­prove a video game.

“I liked the pro­gram­ming class. I nev­er made an ac­tu­al video game be­fore. I got to ex­per­i­ence something dif­fer­ent,” said Gio­vanna, who has been spend­ing her time off go­ing to the shore and to New York to vis­it fam­ily mem­bers.

Trace Ball and Mi­chael Aviles teamed to win a com­puter speed-build­ing con­test.

The 13-year-old eighth-graders-to-be — Trace at Hara­m­bee In­sti­tute of Sci­ence and Tech­no­logy Charter School in West Phil­adelphia, Mi­chael at Gil­bert Spru­ance Ele­ment­ary School in Castor Gar­dens — put a com­puter back to­geth­er and suc­cess­fully turned it on.

Trace, who’s spent the sum­mer do­ing school pro­jects and at­tend­ing act­ing and sports camps, is glad he ac­cep­ted his com­puter sci­ence teach­er’s re­com­mend­a­tion that he at­tend the tech­no­logy camp.

“It’s fun. I like every class equally,” he said.

Mi­chael, who’s been play­ing video games, spend­ing time with his fam­ily and play­ing out­doors this sum­mer, was ex­cited for the op­por­tun­ity to at­tend the camp.

“It’s awe­some. Ever since I was little, I’ve loved tech­no­logy,” he said.

Duve, the Best Buy field lieu­ten­ant, was in Sac­ra­mento, Cal­if., be­fore com­ing to Phil­adelphia and is spend­ing this week in Omaha, Neb. The camp at New Found­a­tions was the only one in Pennsylvania this sum­mer. There was a Girl Scouts-based camp at Val­ley Forge two years ago and a camp at a boys and girls club in Cam­den, N.J., three years ago.

A side be­ne­fit to the camp is that the young people get to work with one an­oth­er.

“They come away with new friends,” Duve said.

Duve said the camp of­fers something for school-age chil­dren age 12 and older who might oth­er­wise spend sum­mer days tex­ting and play­ing video games.

“The whole goal is that we want to ex­pose them to things that will spark their in­terest,” he said. “The kids are in­to the tech­no­logy. It’s fun, and they’re learn­ing at the same time.” ••


You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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