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Computer Camp: No Canoes, Just Coding (and Kickball)

Junior app developers flock to computer summer camps at elite universities

Michael Matias traveled 7,400 miles to camp this summer. Usually the 15-year-old computer enthusiast finds plenty to do in Tel Aviv, his hometown. But when a friend won renown as a hotshot programmer after attending a California tech camp, Michael and his parents made camp a key part of their trip to the U.S. in July. In July the Matiases found a short-stay home near Stanford University. Michael spent his days on campus in a fast-paced course run by iD Tech Camps, learning how to develop applications for the iPhone. “Maybe I’ll end up building the next great app,” he says.

As stories of millionaire app developers and billion-dollar tech startups permeate the global consciousness, summertime computer camp is suddenly a hot ticket. Families from as far away as Saudi Arabia and China are sending their teens to places such as Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology to learn the fundamentals of iPhone programming or the fine points of video game modification, known as “modding.” iD Tech, which runs camps at 60 university campuses across the U.S. and Canada, says enrollment is up 15 percent since last year and will hit a record this summer of nearly 20,000 students. When Alexa Ingram-Cauchi co-founded the camp 12 years ago, shortly after graduating from the University of Washington, enrollment totaled just 200 kids.