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KidOYO

Kids buddy up at kidOYO camp to learn more about the coding world at a special summer camp workshop hosted at Stony Brook University on Friday afternoon. Photo by Rachel Siford

By Rachel Siford

Stony Brook University is hosting a different type of camp this summer.

kidOYO teaches kids between ages 8 and 15 how to code their own websites and games, using Java, Scratch, Python and HTML.

“Code. Make. Learn.” is kidOYO’s motto — geared to teach kids to code and create on their own.

“The kids learn how to map controls, sense the movements and think about it in a logical way,” co-founder Devon Loffreto said.

Loffreto, a graduate of SBU, and his wife Melora Loffreto founded the camp in 2001 and came to Stony Brook University three years ago because of its position as one of the top computer science schools.

“This area has a huge interest in computer science,” Melora said. “The support of the university has been tremendous.”

Some kids stay just one week, and others participate for the full five weeks. This week, 33 students entered the program along with 10 Stony Brook University computer science student mentors to help them.

Chairman of the Computer Science Department for 17 years Arie Kaufman welcomed the crowd to the newly built computer science building. This group was the first to have a demonstration there.

“I want to move Long Island to the point where everyone from ages 4 to 104 knows how to program,” Kaufman said. “This is a happy occasion for the new computer science building.”

For the first time since the camp was started, participants will be able to continue their websites and work at home. Their profiles will keep track of what they do with badges they get for different accomplishments. There are also challenges and tutorials on the website to keep them engaged.

Students made mods for Minecraft, a popular video game, meaning they wrote code modifications for the educational version of the game Minecraft. One student even made the mod downloadable so anyone can add his mod to his or her own game.

“This generation is one of the most powerful ever because of the tools they are given,” Loffreto said.

Another student built a script in Python, a general-purpose programming language, to draw a turtle, which took 370 lines of code.

Students made videos, comic strips, games, 3D printed objects and video games. For many of them, this was their first time using code.

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The Long Island Maker Festival debuts in Port Jeff

Spectators view demo of the Voxiebox which will be on display at the Long Island Maker Festival Sunday. Photo by Sean Kane

Opening my web browser the other day, I was dropped into the middle of an Apple “special event” product unveiling where an executive enthused about some app or service or the other. It was something to customize my newsfeed. Since I’m good with the way I currently get my news, I didn’t pay too much attention and moved on.

Sometimes it can be overwhelming — keeping up with apps, worrying about issues of privacy and multi-tasking — all of which can erode productivity and promise access to more content than we could ever properly consume. And yet, we can either be intimidated by technology or energized by it.

People who turn that energy into creativity — makers, doers — can be an inspiration to us all. That’s why this Sunday, June 14, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Maritime Explorium in Port Jefferson Village and KidOYO are hosting the Long Island Maker Festival.

The largest maker festival in Suffolk County, it will showcase the work of people who have seized technological innovations and turned them into opportunities to become innovators, says Cindy Morris, the event’s organizer.

As Cindy describes it, the maker movement stems from accessible innovation.

“Technology has changed so much, you can do almost everything from your own home,” she says.”

You don’t need millions of dollars or fancy hi-tech facilities to realize your ideas.

I have to admit that I love the word “maker.” People who create, contribute and value utility. It’s the opposite of consumption and requires grit and ingenuity. How could anyone not be excited by that?

Sunday’s family event will bring together 50 volunteers from ages 11 on up to the Port Jefferson Harborfront Park. There will be scientists from across the island wearing shirts saying, “I’m a scientist. Ask me a question.” They want to encourage those who attend to learn more about the science behind what they will be seeing.  And Cindy assures there will be lots of science — professional robotics, a children’s science exhibition, a demonstration of green screen technology and a hologram machine built in a garage — to name just a few offerings.

Festival participant takes in the Voxiebox 3D video consul. Photo by Sean Kane
Festival participant takes in the Voxiebox 3D video consul. Photo by Sean Kane

The maker movement encompasses more than just science and technology, Cindy says. There’s art, performing art and crafting, much of which will also be seen Sunday.

Stony Brook University’s theater department will demo theatrical make-up, while attendees can take sewing lessons, observe an African drumming circle, or take in other musical performances. Workshops from computer coding to organic gardening will also be offered.

“We always talk to our children about being imaginative, but as we get older, we stop doing it ourselves,” Cindy observes.

This event, this gathering of creators and entrepreneurs, is to show that “anybody can do this,” she says. “We want our children to know that they don’t have to be adults to be creative, and for adults to realize that they don’t have to be children to be creative.”

All of this came together in four months, which Cindy sees as a show of the community’s interest and desire for such an event.  There are close to 100 makers participating, and organizers expect the festival to draw some 3,000 attendees.

Cindy’s background as a strategic planner for non-profits — she owns The Benson Agency — definitely came in handy when gathering sponsors. Without them, the undertaking would have cost anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000, she estimates.

Port Jefferson Village is allowing the organizers to use the Harborfront Park rent free, while The Rinx, the roller rink at the Village Center, is offering all attendees free roller skating for the day. Stony Brook University College of Arts and Sciences and its department of technology and society, Stony Brook Medicine, Hofstra, The Science Academy Camp at Park Shore, Long Island Parent and PSEG are among the other sponsors.

If you are a mover and a maker, or you want to be one, head “down Port” this Sunday. Maybe something you see will spark your sense of invention!

Tickets: Purchased in advance $10/person or $40/family. Day of $15/person or $60 family. www.limakerfest.com

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