The Atlantic

Teaching Kids to Code During the Summer—for $1,000 a Week

Are private summer camps exacerbating tech's diversity problem?
Source: Evgenii Bobrov / Vovan / Shutterstock / Jack Hollingsworth / Getty / Arsh Raziuddin / The Atlantic

On a humid morning in June, classrooms along a third-floor corridor in a New York University building hummed with high-pitched chatter. The space serves as the hub for summer programs in computer science run by the California-based company iD Tech Camps. In one room, a group of children, ages seven to nine, knelt on the carpet next to small white robots, which they were learning to program with handheld tablets. Nearby, other kids worked on laptops, recording YouTube videos or designing video games. Down the hall, a group of teenagers jotted notes as an instructor diagrammed a linear-regression algorithm on a whiteboard. While some planned to return the following week, several told me they were squeezing in a few days of programming instruction before heading off to sleepaway camp or on family vacations.

Kids don’t learn much coding in school, which can leave them unprepared to tackleyet fewer than 50,000 computer-science majors graduated into the workforce last year, , a nonprofit that seeks to expand computer-science instruction in schools. Summer camps like iD Tech are stepping in to fill the gap, positioning themselves as a potential entry point to a career in tech down the road. iD Tech, which operates on more than a hundred campuses in the United States and abroad, has established itself—along with competitors like Digital Media Academy—as a dominant player in the niche market of summer tech programs for children and adolescents.More than 50,000 students plan to attend its camps this summer. At roughly $1,000 a week, though, these programs remain out of reach for many families, raising questions about how for-profit enrichment programs might shape access to tech education for a generation of young people—and whether they perpetuate patterns that exclude underrepresented candidates.

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