Sixteen-year-old Michaela Ma didn’t just learn how to design a website this week; she actually created a professional site for her dad, dentist Dr. Jeffrey Ma.
Fourteen-year-old Ricky Tan didn’t just learn how to create a level in a professional first-person shooter game, he designed one that he and others could use in tournament play.
And 13-year-old Tioga Benner mastered the art of arcade video game creation.
All three Davis teens were participants in iD Tech Camp at Sacramento State University, where 30 students ages 7 to 17 learned how to build robots, create video games and websites and learn the basics of programming.
The 13-year-old camp, which takes place every summer on college campuses across the country, divides students by age and interest into small groups. This week at Sacramento State, the youngest participants were building robots using Lego Mindstorms materials, while older students were doing more sophisticated work.
Ma, for example, was creating a website for her dad’s Sacramento dental practice that she hoped to unveil on Friday at the “family showcase,” where students show off their accomplishments. By midweek, the Davis High School junior had created the site’s banner and logo, as well as an Adobe Flash Player animation of teeth being brushed.
“It’s a little bit hard because I’ve never done it before,” Ma said. “And the animation took a really long time.”
But she was looking forward to revealing the site to her dad.
“It will be a surprise,” she said.
Nearby in the large, colorful room, Benner, a Holmes Junior High School eighth-grader, was creating an arcade-type video game, complete with a character being chased through a maze by bad guys.
“Every five seconds these guys shoot something at your character,” he explained.
This was Benner’s second iD Tech camp. Emerson Junior High student Ricky Tan was a returning student as well, and like Benner, Tan was working on a video game as well, albeit a more involved one.
Tan was one of the students creating their own levels in a first-person shooter game using Unreal Development Kits, the engine behind the popular game, Unreal Tournament 3.
“We’re making a level and when we’re done, we can load them up on each other’s computers and play each other,” Tan said.
“It takes a lot of time,” he added.
“It’s pretty complex,” agreed camp director Brian Campbell.
Campbell, who teaches math at Albert Einstein Middle School in Sacramento, has been directing the local iD Tech Camp for five years.
“It’s really to get kids interested in technology,” he said. “And they love it. They come back year after year.”
At the end of the weeklong camp most of the students take their project home with them on a flash drive. The one exception: the youngest students, who spent the week building robots using the popular Lego equipment. They don’t get to take their robots, but do get to take videos of them home.
Seven-year-old Elk Grove resident Kayla Rabey made a pair of robotic puppies during the week.
One of them, she said, “goes and then stops and sniffs like a puppy.”
The second one “is going to move by himself and make noises,” she said.
On the other end of the iD Camp spectrum were the most advanced students, learning programming.
Vacaville High School student Marissa Albidress was working on a program to average out numbers.
“I’m learning the basics of programming,” she said.
It’s her first time at iD Tech Camp, and she’s hoping to use what she learns here on the Vacaville High robotics team.
“I’ve learned a lot,” she said. “I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to do anything technology-related.”
As would Campbell: “It’s really gives these kids an edge, an advantage,” he said.
For more information about the camps, visit
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or (530) 747-8051.