Students with an appetite and aptitude for coding had the chance to satisfy those cravings at two summer camps held at South-Western City School District schools.

Twenty students attended each of the camps and used Chromebooks, smartphones and their ingenuity to create apps.

The Tech Summer camps were held at no cost for students who just completed fifth and sixth grade June 10-14 at Franklin Woods Intermediate School and for third- and fourth-grade students June 17-20 at Finland Elementary School.

Instructors from Tech Corps presented the camps, which were funded through a $6,500 grant from Battelle, said Helen Cosner, a South-Western gifted-intervention specialist who helped coordinate the sessions.

More than 100 students applied for each program, Cosner said.

Teachers encouraged students who were suited for the camps to apply, she said.

The overall goal of Columbus-based Tech Corps is to help provide all K-12 students with access to technology tools and programs in preparation for college or careers in the 21st century, said Will Sierzputowski, a camp instructor who co-conducted the program at Franklin Woods.

During the weeklong camps, students were given free rein to design, plan and create an app, Cosner said.

"The only thing is we asked them to create something that would address a need that someone would have, whether it's in their life, their home or at school," she said.

"It allows the kids to focus on something they can relate to, so there's a real buy-in to the project," Sierzputowski said. "It's more fun and interesting for them because it's an idea they come up, with rather than something specific they're directed to do."

The students were prompted to come up with concepts that would answer four basic questions, Cosner said.

"Those were: what was the need the app would address, what was unique about the approach they came up with, how would the app benefit someone and how would it differ from competing products," she said.

The skills the students learned "are hopefully skills they can take with them and use at home," Sierzputowski said.

"My favorite part of these camps is seeing the excitement students have as they develop their ideas," he said. "They start at 'I can't do this,' to 'Wow, look at what I've created.' It's empowering for them."

Students could work individually or in teams at the camps, Cosner said.

Mena Howard, who will be entering sixth grade at Franklin Woods, said she wanted to create an app "for people who have a small amount of storage on their phones."

Her app, Drawing Time, would allow users to draw on their phones while not taking up much space, she said.

Mena said she enjoys coding "because you can work on it for a while, take a break, then come back to it. If I stare at the screen for too long, it hurts my eyes and my mind starts to wander. I like taking a break and coming back fresh."

Kenny Huynh developed an app to help teachers avoid having their students distracted by their smartphones in class.

The app would allow teachers to limit the apps that students can access in their classroom, he said.

"Sometimes students don't pay as much attention to their classwork as they should because they're checking out something on their phone," Kenny said.

The app also would allow teachers to limit students' access to tools such as calculators they might be tempted to use during tests, the seventh-grader said.

"It's not fair if some students use their phone to help themselves on their tests while other students don't," Kenny said.

Teachers could also set a "geo-fence" or virtual perimeter around their classroom to send an alert if a student's phone is stolen, he said.

A thief also would be blocked from using the phone.

"It's a pretty big app," Kenny said on the third day of the camp. "I'm not sure if I'm going to have time to get it done. I wish we had more time."

Grace Tuttle created an app that had personal meaning.

"I have Tourette Syndrome, and I wanted to create parents can use to help find out how to ease the symptoms in their children," she said.

"When you have Tourette's, you can have a lot of repetitive movements or tics that you can't control very easily," Grace said. "I'm putting together a list on the app parents can use to both try to prevent the effects of Tourette's or help their children when they occur."

A good sleep, keeping children busy and just having them do a lot of talking can help reduce the symptoms, she said.

"I really like the idea of creating an app that can help people," Grace said.

"It makes you feel like you're doing something worthwhile."

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