Vision Tech Camps https://www.visiontechcamps.com Summer Computer Camp in the Bay Area for Kids & Teens Mon, 09 Sep 2019 23:43:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.13 122559688 A Very Belated Set of Thoughts on GDC 2017 – Virtual Reality Edition https://www.visiontechcamps.com/blog/belated-set-thoughts-gdc-2017-virtual-reality-edition/ Fri, 31 Mar 2017 13:00:25 +0000 https://www.visiontechcamps.com/?p=30890 Just shy of a month since GDC, I finally managed to set aside some time to write up my thoughts on the game development community and how it has changed since 2016. I’ll write up a few more posts these coming weeks over a few topics that I saw at the floor. The first thing […]

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Just shy of a month since GDC, I finally managed to set aside some time to write up my thoughts on the game development community and how it has changed since 2016. I’ll write up a few more posts these coming weeks over a few topics that I saw at the floor.

The first thing that comes to mind from visiting the Expo floor is just how all-in everyone was on Virtual Reality. Don’t get me wrong, Virtual Reality is a very promising field (I even help to design a class on VR) – but I was a little disappointed to see everyone going in almost the same direction when it came to alternate controls and usage schemes. The Nintendo Switch, sadly, wasn’t present to show off – though admittedly from what I’ve seen since it would have been a welcome addition.

I mean, in the spirit of things, I tried Virtual Reality. And by that I mean I tried nearly every Virtual Reality station I could. I’ll go through most of the ones I saw on the Expo Floor, and give my opinions from what I saw on the floor. Just a heads up, all of the demos I tried were with my glasses on, which most VR platforms now try to accomodate, though some do better than others.

  • The Oculus Rift – The most well known of these, the Rift is pretty much the standard by which you judge other VR headsets – if they fail to match up to the Rift, they kind of have a serious problem that needs to be addressed. The Rift has a pretty solid VR setup, and unlike some VR setups I tried back in 2014 and 2015, I do feel like the headache issue was no longer present – I don’t get the sense of visual dissonance that I used to, and while I didn’t try it for extended periods (I’m not sure if I could say the same after 2 hours of gaming) – they’ve certainly managed to hit the basics, especially considering that I have to wear glasses under the things. That said…there’s an old niggle that still bugs me with the Rift – its when I’m looking at far off objects, the pixellation on the screen becomes much more apparent – which is probably why nearly all of the demos were kept in short-range objects. Perhaps additional resolution might help, dual 1080p might not be quite enough for long range focusing in wide, open landscapes. That said, the price drop announced at GDC to $499 makes this much more appealing than it used to be.

  • Google DayDream – OK, this one’s a little interesting – Daydream is something like a more expensive Cardboard for specially designed phones such as the Pixel, with a bit more kick to it. I…actually was reasonably impressed. The quality is nowhere near the level of the Rift or the high end VR setups, but it was decent for the price point – the downside is the high level of hardware specificity – unlike Cardboard, you can’t theoretically swap in any phone – not even any Android phone – and make this work. In the end, it’s promising, but the limited amount of phones that will work with it reduces the chance of it being usable for the general public. That said, the one neat thing about this, is the chance of being able to upgrade the phone in the future and upgrade all the visual and processing capabilities – theoretically you could swap in a hypothetical 8k phone with more processing power than you could want into it, and it would still work.

  • Sony Playstation VR – I tried the PS VR on a few simple demos set in small rooms, so I can’t speak as to how it would deal with the long-range issue that’s bugged me in mainstream VR, buut unfortunately, the PS VR has two problems – the resolution per eye is only 960×1080 per eye, and unfortunately, its just not quite enough. They went for an interesting subpixel effect to try to smooth things over, but the problem is that I can actually see the individual subpixels giving a weird color effect to anything I tried. Moreover, the price, at $399, isn’t really a winner here either, I’d much rather throw the extra $100 down to pick up a Rift over the PS VR. I would honestly not recommend this VR experience for the price point, if you’re considering getting this, I’d honestly recommend either putting up a little more for a considerably better experience, or scaling back to some of the lower end VR experiences.

  • The HTC Vive – Ah, the Vive. I’ve been itching to get my hands on a Vive for quite some time now, and the experience did not disappoint. While the resolution on the device is pretty much identical to the Rift, the polish on the device was superior, with a more comfortable set on my head, and it felt more natural dealing with far off viewpoints, despite the fact that I could *still* sort of see the individual pixels when trying to focus on far off objects, it bothered me less on the Vive somehow. So far, I would put the Vive as the best VR experience available right now, though admittedly the price point – at $800 – is considerably more than the Rift is right now. Time will tell if HTC will feel pressured to reduce that to compete with the Rift’s price point, but as of now, it seems Vive feels comfortable that their advantages justify the price. To be *completely* fair, the Vive comes with its controller by standard, which is the equivalent of the Oculus Rift’s $598 package, so the price discrepancy isn’t as high as it first appears. Me personally, I do feel that while the Vive is superior, HTC would be well served by dropping the total package price by $100 in the near future – while I did find the experience superior, it wasn’t night-and-day superior.

  • 8K VR – Out of fairness to the company indicated, I won’t name this company, which claimed they had a large variety of technical issues on the day I went to see the demo – they claimed their computer had broken, and they had to borrow a computer from another booth, rebuild their demo program in a rush, and try to work with it, but this company claimed to have 8k VR (or roughly 4k in each eye, as opposed to the Vive/Rift which has roughly 1080p in each eye). I tried the headset and…admittedly, the screen-door effect was reduced. Unfortunately, I’m guessing that HTC and Oculus have done a lot of effort in reducing the effects of visual dissonance in software, because I almost got a headache in just about 3 minutes of trying it. It was sad to see, but it seems you can’t just solve VR problems by throwing more resolution at it – not to mention that 8K VR will certainly require beefier computers than we currently have – even normal VR is just starting to be reasonably affordable at this point in time.

Well, that’s my roundup of every piece of VR hardware I could try at GDC. For now, it’s back to helping kids learn to program! Next time, I’ll go over the engines and the developments I saw at GDC.

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Kids Developing Games – What kind of tools should kids make games with? https://www.visiontechcamps.com/blog/kids-developing-games-what-kind-of-tools-should-kids-make-games-with/ Mon, 09 Jan 2017 20:28:43 +0000 https://www.visiontechcamps.com/?p=29301 As a game developer, I can remember many passionate arguments during the initial phases of developing a game revolving around one simple thing – the technologies we planned to use creating it. In a similar manner, many times kids interested in game development end up stymied by this decision – namely – what tools should […]

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As a game developer, I can remember many passionate arguments during the initial phases of developing a game revolving around one simple thing – the technologies we planned to use creating it. In a similar manner, many times kids interested in game development end up stymied by this decision – namely – what tools should they use to build the game in the first place? As someone who designs and teaches many courses for teaching kids video game design, I felt like going over some of these options.

In this post, I will go over some of my favorite tools to recommend kids begin developing games with, based on skill level and experience with games and game design. Bear in mind, this list is far from comprehensive, and if you have any suggestions for any tools I should add in another post, please feel free to recommend them in the comments.

No Experience

These tools are what I consider most appropriate for the youngest students interested in game design, who lack any knowledge of what building games entails, though some of them can go beyond this level and be used for older students or those who are exploring programming as well.

Kodu

Kodu is one of the simplest game creation tools available, built by Microsoft, and is available on both PCs and the Xbox 360. While a successor project known as Project Spark was available for the Xbox One, Microsoft canceled the project late last year.

That said, Kodu’s strength is its extremely easy to use programming system – which allows students with no programming experience to easily comprehend the system. It revolves around a simple conditionality system – where kids program simple “if-then” conditional structures, such as “If an object sees a fruit, it will move towards that fruit”.

Pros:

• Very simple to use
• Suitable for young children
• Easy to create 3D environments without worrying about developing art or 3D assets
• Can be used to build collaborative/multiplayer games
• Free

Cons:

• Only works on Xbox 360 and PC
• Hard limitations on what kind of assets or art can be put in the game
• No online multiplayer or split screen multiplayer
• The simple programming system can be somewhat limiting

Scratch

The Scratch programming language, built by MIT, is one of the most famous visual programming languages known – and is widely used in schools already. The Scratch programming language can be readily used to create games. Like Kodu, Scratch focuses heavily on conditional programming, but also includes more iterative aspects allowing students to trigger a series of events on a single condition more easily.

Pros:

• Good language to learn to program with
• Allows custom art assets
• Many children already have experience with Scratch from school
• Free

Cons:

• No mobile support
• Lacks some useful game development features

Minecraft

While Minecraft does not seem like a traditional choice for game design, the game, built by Mojang, has an impressively large community and features that make it a surprisingly good choice for game development. Indeed, Minecraft camps now make up a large percentage of all technology camps done during the summer, and the popularity of the game means that children tend to be extremely familiar with it.
Minecraft features two tools that allow it to be used for game design even without leaving the game – Redstone, and Command Blocks. Redstone is a surprisingly powerful system in Minecraft that resembles electricity and can be used to build logical structures such as logic gates, adders, flip-flops, and other components that would feel right at home in a course on electrical engineering. Command Blocks, on the other hand, allow designers to build “code” into Minecraft that executes on a Redstone trigger, allowing a surprisingly versatile level of control, letting kids build custom game rules into the game of Minecraft.
Furthermore, Minecraft’s impressively large development community has focused on building a large number of high quality “mods” which can be used to extend the game of Minecraft further, though this requires more programming knowledge

Pros:

• Easy to build 3D environments in Minecraft
• Extremely large support community
• Many children are extremely familiar with the game

Cons:

• Advanced work such as custom art or complicated code requires modding, requiring more experience
• Most features not available on Minecraft’s mobile edition

Some Experience

These tools are a step above the previous tools in terms of flexibility and usually allow a wider variety of game types to be built, though most of them still do not require programming in a text, or code form.

Clickteam Fusion 2.5

Clickteam Fusion 2.5, successor to the long-lived Multimedia Fusion line, is an excellent tool for aspiring developers looking to test their skills in game development and art without worrying too much about the programming aspects. While the programming system, called the Event Editor, is conditional much like Kodu and Scratch, it allows for a wide variety of chosen actions and conditions related to the game and is not excessively limiting.

Pros:

• Large variety of games possible to be built
• Allows custom art and programming
• Has support for Mobile, HTML5, PC, Mac, and even limited console support
• Large pre-made library of basic art assets

Cons:

• No support for tiling
• Somewhat expensive for students, especially including exporter costs to mobile or consoles

Stencyl

Stencyl is quite similar to Clickteam Fusion 2.5, and much like it does not require actual code for developing games. Unlike Clickteam Fusion 2.5, Stencyl has superior tiling support, and its programming system is clearly based on the Scratch programming system.

Pros:

• Large variety of games possible to be built
• Allows custom art and programming
• Has support for Mobile, HTML5, PC, & Mac
• Tiling support
• Free

Cons:

• Comes without any graphics, requiring students to either build or find graphics

RPG Maker MV

RPG Maker MV is the latest version in a long line of products in the RPG Maker family. While the RPG Maker name gives it away, the RPG Maker family has precisely one type of game it can realistically build – RPG’s, or Role-Playing Games. This focus means that when it comes to having kids build RPG’s, its hard to find a better option that doesn’t involve programming, as the system handles things such as random encounters, overworlds, portals, cutscene control, and so on, all without requiring programming. The system does include an Event system largely similar to the conditional programming systems seen in other game development tools, but as it’s limited to only creating RPG’s, its not as fleshed out as many others.

Pros:

• Comes with large amount of assets for creating an RPG quickly
• Excellent support for RPG creation
• Mobile support

Cons:

• Can only build RPG’s
• Limited support for non-standard battle or control systems
• Somewhat expensive for kids

Moderate Experience

The tools below are expected to be used by students who have a keen interest in game design, are older, or are intending to learn to program in preparation for a future career. All of these engines are neutral on game type, though some may lack 3D support

PyGame

PyGame is one of the most popular game development tools for a reason, using the Python programming language. Python is one of the most intuitive languages to learn programming with, and PyGame is one of the most versatile and user-friendly game engines available. That said, PyGame struggles to support non-desktop systems, so if you’re looking to develop a game for mobile phones, this probably isn’t the best choice.

Pros:

• Features excellent tools, community, and support
• Well documented
• Easy to learn
• Free

Cons:

• Lacks mobile support
• Lacks 3D support

Libgdx

LibGDX, in Java, is a well known and used game development tool used to create cross-platform games. LibGDX has HTML5 support, mobile support, as well as cross-platform desktop support. Java is the current subject of the AP Computer Science test, meaning that students of that age are likely to either be familiar with, or interested in learning Java, making it a popular choice for that age range.

Pros:

• Cross-platform and mobile support
• Well known and established language
• Free

Cons:

• Somewhat sparse documentation

Unreal Engine

The Unreal Engine is one of the most powerful choices to develop with and is used by many professional and well-known games such as Dishonored, Gears of War 4, and Unreal Tournament. The engine is powerful and surprisingly intuitive and comes with a reasonable level of sample art to work with. The programming system allows for both a visual scripting system known as Blueprint, and C++ code to be used as well.

Pros:

• Extraordinarily powerful
• Cross-platform and mobile support
• Free

Cons:

• Somewhat sparse documentation

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Vision Tech Camps sees record-high enrollment in summer 2016 https://www.visiontechcamps.com/blog/vision-tech-camps-sees-record-high-enrollment-in-summer-2016/ Fri, 12 Aug 2016 01:53:58 +0000 http://138.68.55.108/?p=25818 The post Vision Tech Camps sees record-high enrollment in summer 2016 appeared first on Vision Tech Camps.

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Aug. 12, 2016

Press Contact:
Christa Keizer
press@visiontechcamps.com

Vision Tech Camps sees record-high enrollment in summer 2016

Bay Area education program records 50 percent jump in female enrollment

 

San Francisco, Calif. – Vision Tech Camps, a Bay Area provider of summer camps for kids ages seven to 17, wrapped up its 2016 summer season with a 30 percent annual increase in enrollment in its engineering, programming, robotics, game design, and Minecraft summer camps. The company enrolled 50 percent more girls this summer, making 2016 its most gender-diverse year in 16 years of business.

Girls’ and parents’ increased interest in technology education led to the company’s busiest summer ever. “Popularity of the Minecraft video game among girls has especially driven a lot of interest in coding and video game design,” says the company.

To promote diversity in technology fields, Vision Tech Camps is seeking corporate sponsors for its 2017 diversity scholarship program. “We feel that Silicon Valley could do more to encourage and enable kids to learn STEM skills in a fun environment. Technology companies can partner with Vision Tech Camps to help reach children that may not otherwise have access to technology education programs.”

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Top 3 Reasons Why Your Child Should Learn to Code Today https://www.visiontechcamps.com/blog/top-3-reasons-why-your-child-should-learn-to-code-today/ Fri, 29 Apr 2016 01:48:08 +0000 http://138.68.55.108/?p=25809 The post Top 3 Reasons Why Your Child Should Learn to Code Today appeared first on Vision Tech Camps.

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Back when we were kids, our teachers and mentors told us to focus on the facts. Memorize certain processes and apply those facts and processes to the test. Once we passed the test, we would receive our diploma, guaranteed a safe job because of our hard work in school.

Not anymore. The world is changing, switching from the safe corporate jobs to risky entrepreneurships. Many entrepreneurs and multi-millionaires do not have a college degree. How do they create value for society?

Enter the world of coding.

A computer programmer who can code effectively and efficiently will find better jobs and increase their critical thinking skills.

Can your children learn how to code today? Of course they can! Here are the top three reasons why your child should learn to code today:

1. Better Career Opportunities

Everyone uses a computer, but not every person knows how the computer works. Even if your child knows the basics of computer programming, he or she will know more about computers than 90% of the population. With that knowledge, your kids can create their own startups. They can create apps or new computer programs. Your child can sell their coding services to others. There are many opportunities for your child once they are equipped with basic coding skills.

Even if your child doesn’t like the idea of starting their own company and becoming an entrepreneur, employers are looking for coders every day. The job market is now geared towards students who have degrees in science, math, engineering and technology, or STEM. If your child can code on a computer, their future is safe, no matter what they do the rest of their life. The median salary for computer programmers is $75,550; not a bad payday for knowing how to code.

2. Greater Understanding of Technology

Find a job today that doesn’t use technology, computers, or the Internet. Farmers use satellites and GPS tracking to plant their crops. Google can show people how to do certain tasks, like blacksmithing. A 2013 study showed over 80% of Americans own a computer.

With experience in coding, your child can understand the inner workings of the computer and the Internet. Not only will your child be a computer mechanic, fixing code and making computers work, but they will also be the manufacturer, creating new programs and apps for the future. This greater understanding of technology will be useful later when technology becomes more sophisticated. Besides, your child can help you when your new smart phone doesn’t work (unless they are already helping you).

3. Increased Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is critical. Right now, in the United States, critical thinking is on the decline. Students are taught to memorize facts, then take those facts and apply them to the test. Their questions won’t be answered because teachers don’t have enough time to teach critical thinking skills.

When taught correctly, math, science and technology can increase your child’s critical thinking skills. Coders use these skills every day. They are always looking for ways to see where their code fails so they can solve their problems one step at a time. They ask questions like,

What is the next step?

Ok, this doesn’t work. Now what?

Computers do not care if Sally took away your banana; either the code works or it doesn’t. How will your children attack these problems?   

These problem-solving skills will translate to any aspect of your child’s life. Even if they never touch a computer code again, your child will attribute those same skills to solve other problems in their life.

Kids will understand technology better, become awesome critical thinkers and create more job opportunities when they learn how to code. If your child wants to learn how to code, take them to VisionTech camps this summer. We will provide a unique experience for your child, showing them how to build some cool apps and computer games, all using the power of computer codes.

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5 Reasons Girls Need Computer Camps https://www.visiontechcamps.com/blog/5-reasons-girls-need-computer-camps/ Thu, 28 Apr 2016 01:43:39 +0000 http://138.68.55.108/?p=25805 The post 5 Reasons Girls Need Computer Camps appeared first on Vision Tech Camps.

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“Computer camps are just for boys.” “Only geeks and nerds go to computer camp.” These common misconceptions stand between many girls and the potential to acquire incredible skills that they’ll use for the rest of their lives. All too few girls choose to go into professions that include coding, programming, or cybersecurity–and these rapidly growing professions need all the potential applicants they can get. If there’s a young lady in your life who is showing interest in computers, there six very good reasons why computer camp is a great experience for her.

Computer Camp Makes it Fun

At computer camp, it’s not just about sitting behind a computer screen and learning skills. Kids will put together coding and programming skills while playing Minecraft, using Lego Robotics programs, and more. Girls need this just as much as boys do. When they enjoy the skills they’re learning, they’ll be more likely to dive in, study it, and make it part of their lives, encouraging them to pursue careers in this industry. Computer camp erases the misconception that all computer professions are about sitting behind a computer, producing lines of code that are complete gibberish to most of the world. Instead, it invites girls and boys alike to discover what important computer professions really entail.

Girls Need More Role Models

When they attend computer camp, girls will be surrounded by the role models they need to enhance their own interest in computer skills. Those role models have been comparatively slim in past years, with hacking and other professions described as a “man’s world.” Many girls are discouraged, not by a difficult industry, but by one in which their gender is ignored or downplayed in favor of boys. At computer camp, boys and girls will be encouraged equally and presented with equal opportunities for learning and advancement. There are a growing number of women within computer science fields who are making incredible advancements to the industry. The problem is, many girls don’t have access to them.

The Many Uses of Technology

Today’s society relies heavily on technology in many fields, from education to healthcare and more. Many people, in fact, fail to realize just how critical computer skills are to every area of society. When they attend computer camp, girls will have the opportunity to embrace that technology, gaining the skills they need to be even more successful in their chosen fields.

Girls Are Brought Together

Girls thrive on social interaction, and many of them aren’t on board with being simply “one of the boys.” They want to be surrounded by other young ladies–and at computer camp, they’ll come together with other girls who share their interests. Bringing girls in with their friends is one of the first steps to encouraging computer literacy in girls. While they might not be able to bring their best friend with them when they walk into computer camp, they’ll make new friends who will help encourage their interests and let them know that they’re not alone as they pursue these critical skills.

More Than a Word Processor

By the time they reach middle school, many girls already experience a significant gap in their knowledge and understanding of technology compared to their male peers. They’re ready to dive in and use it as a word processor or perhaps for an internet search or two, but they don’t have the skills necessary to take it further. At computer camp, however, girls will gain those skills and many more.

For girls who show an interest in technology, programming, coding, and more, computer camp is the perfect opportunity to refine those skills and gain knowledge that they’ll use for a lifetime. If you’re ready to send the young lady in your life to computer camp or you want to learn more, contact us today for more information. Girls need technology, and the face of advancing technology needs girls more than ever before. We’re here to bring them together.

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STEM Education 101 for Parents https://www.visiontechcamps.com/blog/stem-education-101-for-parents/ Thu, 14 Apr 2016 01:40:53 +0000 http://138.68.55.108/?p=25802 The post STEM Education 101 for Parents appeared first on Vision Tech Camps.

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