By Emily Williams-Robertshaw
Over the summer, Hoover High School sophomores Shaams Nur and twin brothers Leo and Victor Song hosted HooverCodes, the first iteration of what is now HooverCamp.
The three close friends came up with the idea in the fall of 2019 during their freshman year while eating lunch. They remember the conversation down to the snacks they consumed – crispito bites and Oreos.
Nur recalled asking his friends, “What was that website we used to build our own games with back in elementary school?” He was evoking memories of their time using Scratch, a free, online programming language geared toward young kids that allowed them to create interactive stories, games and animations.
Leo mentioned that he still used the application on occasion.
Together, the three friends came up with plans for a coding camp in which they could teach younger students how to have as much fun coding as they had. Showcasing a little of the entrepreneurial spirit they now teach, they decided parents might even pay for the service.
According to Nur, the mission of HooverCamp is to “stimulate kids’ creative juices and open their eyes to unique career paths through personal projects.”
More than 40 kids ages 8-12 participated in the summer camp, in which the three students-turned-instructors taught the basics of coding through Scratch.
“In our experience, modern public education doesn’t allow us to practice divergent thinking and forces us to repeatedly learn the same thing with little room for creativity,” Nur said.
According to the three founders, HooverCamp is unlike many other entrepreneurial coding classes out there because it is founded by teenagers. They find that they are able to tap into a level of understanding that adults just can’t. They know what drives kids as well as what they want from their learning environment.
After seeing great results from the summer camp, the boys decided to expand and host a winter program. HooverCamp now offers not only HooverCodes coding classes, but a higher level HooverEntrepreneurs, which offers lessons in entrepreneurship, another area that isn’t focused on in school curriculums.
While hosting the first two installments of the camp, Nur said, he and his partners have thoroughly enjoyed taking on the role of instructor.
“It feels really great watching kids learn and progress, especially knowing that we fostered their education,” Nur said.
Some of the works that their students have created have been inspiring. One of the summer students, Sara, sticks out in Nur’s mind.
The students decided they wanted to create projects honoring George Floyd and the social movement his death inspired.
Sara created an animation, “Love Knows No Colors!”, that depicted four young girls of different ethnicities and, in the background, Sara played a song that she wrote.
“The most remarkable part isn’t that she designed the animation in four to five days,” he said, “it’s how she expressed her creativity and combined it with her own (sense of justice).”
“Her project also revealed to us the true potential of HooverCamp and how it’s not just another run-of-the-mill camp,” he said. “This can be a big thing in our community.”
After two successful seasons, Nur and the Song brothers are looking forward to the summer, with camp dates to be announced.
The price of each course is $60, but students can sign up for both for a total of $100. The camp also offers opportunities for financial aid.
“We plan on using half our profits to purchase laptops and donate them to libraries and schools around Birmingham,” Nur said.
Money raised is put back into the program, used to fund prizes for the students and used to pay for service subscriptions needed to conduct the camp, such as website fees and a Zoom subscription.
For more information, visit hoovercamp.com.