Video game programming class to be held

Published 8:00 pm Monday, December 8, 2014

A local college professor is gearing up to offer a video game programming camp at the Inner Banks Artisans Center for children.

Ken Robol, a professor at Beaufort County Community College, will offer the camp in the next couple of weeks, most likely when Beaufort County Schools let out for Christmas break, at the Inner Banks Artisans Center, he said. The camp will be open to any children between the ages of 8 and 16 who want to participate.

Robol said he has been the ‘tech geek’ for the Inner Banks Artisans’ Center for about the past year or two, assisting with social media, web development and tech needs for the artists and owner, Bob Henkel. Henkel asked Robol to do a video game camp and he agreed. At a later date, Robol will also be doing a camp on computer apps and learning about how computers work and the dos and don’ts of making it successful, he said.

The camp will instruct participants on the basics of setting up a game to programming a game to even putting it up online, Robol said. Robol will use Scratch, a popular open-source program that kids use that is based on Java, a programming language.

“It’s primarily used to write mobile apps, and if you have an android, you sort of get exposed to that,” Robol said. “It’s a very easy program that beginners can understand.”

Robol said he will also use Gamesalad, which correlates more with the Apple/iPhone software. It allows students to understand concepts of programming. Through the use of Gamesalad and Scratch, students will gain understanding of the different concepts of programming from Apple and Androi. During the weeklong camp, Robol will teach participants how to make a couple of old Atari games like Pitfall, Breakout, he said. Atari is a gaming system that was popular from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. Participants will need to bring their own laptop, but wireless Internet and all other materials will be provided and available for download, Robol said.

“This will, literally, expose kids to a new avenue of thinking,” Robol said. “You can at least understand the concepts and produce simple games. Technology is so important in our lives, in our work and just in our overall world that we have to embrace it and learn how to use it. Game programming is so popular with the millennial generation. It will expose kids to games. Old people don’t really understand that, for example, a cell phone to a millennial is his or her lifeline. They will not give up their cell phone. We’re very lucky in North Carolina because in Raleigh, we have so many different tech companies.”

Robol said after a couple of weeks of using what they learned in the camp, participants will be able to make a version of Super Mario Bros., but not the full-blown version.

“Tech is a craft,” Robol said. “A guy who writes an app is a craftsman. It (the app) can be worth billions.”

Robol said the camp is a new concept at the Center, but it is one he and Henkel would like to hold regularly. Robol plans to do another one that focuses on adults more and will help them understand things like privacy issues a little better.

To sign up for the video game camp at the Inner Banks Artisans Center, contact the Center at 252-975-2223. The Inner Banks Artisans’ Center is located at 158 West Main St. in downtown Washington.