Many parents will be all too familiar with Minecraft, the computer game that has taken the world by storm. For the uninitiated, looking in on the clunky, pixellated graphics from the outside, it can be hard to understand the appeal of a game where players have to achieve, erm, nothing in particular. But the very simplicity of those building blocks and the open-endedness of the Minecraft environment are crucial, not only to the game’s success, but to its enormous potential as a learning tool.
Minecraft Courses at Fire Tech Camp
The Minecraft workshops developed by Fire Tech Camp and lead tutor Jim Christian (who is also an expert on Internet safety for families) harness that creative energy and enable children to learn concrete, valuable skills – 3D design, computer-aided design (CAD), problem-solving or the mechanisms of electronic circuitry for example – while having fun playing their favourite game.
We also have a longer Python Coding and Electronics with Minecraft camp for older students who want to develop advanced coding skills and dabble in electronics by using a custom Arduino to create their own custom game controller. This camp was actually inspired by Fire Tech Camp students and developed by one of our most experienced tutors – David Whale – who has gone on to co-publish a book on the topic.
We launched our suite of Minecraft courses in London and have since expanded to Brighton with more options coming in the summer of 2015 in Manchester, Bristol, Cambridge and Reading. The newest course includes Minecraft Maker, a week-long option for younger children which combines many of the workshop elements with a new physical making twist.
Benefits: Creativity and Practical Computing Skills
The software and main areas for focus in the World Building and Redstone workshops and the week-long Python camp are different, but they all make use of the ready-made testing ground that forms the Minecraft bedrock. i.e. build new things, see how they work, play around with them and use mistakes as handy experiences for what you want to try differently next time. This is the modern-day computer developer’s mantra – if at first you don’t succeed, call it version 1.0 and put those experiences, together with all your practical knowledge, powers of logic and imagination, to create something better next time!
Campers on World Building with Minecraft Workshop
Where these courses really make the difference, is in expanding the practical knowledge a player can bring to their own Minecraft universe, while putting that process of creative thinking, experimentation and adaptation front and centre.
Each student will come away with their own unique projects because the workshops and camp foster independent thinking and customisation. But participants will have got to those very different points using advanced computing skills that they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to bring into play. These skills include navigating a 3D design space with MCEdit, topographical 2D mapping or the application of Minecraft’s ‘electronic’ components (traps, machines). It doesn’t matter that some of the terms seem like gobbledygook to non-players. Ask your child about what they have created and they will take you into an expansive world all of their own making.
Fire Tech Values and Minecraft
Critical Thinking, Collaborating with Peers, Widening Access to Tech, Equipping Young People for the Future
Of course, parents are right to have their worries and although many educators are now realising the benefits of Minecraft, it was designed first and foremost as a game. There are many informed resources available to those looking to strike a balance between their child’s enjoyment of Minecraft and, well, the rest of their life.
The workshops at Fire Tech Camp also help to an extent in this respect – giving guidance and structures within a potentially complex and confusing space, and challenging gamers to approach new problems with specialist skills and logical thinking.
In line with the values that Fire Tech Camp apply to all its curricula, the experience is also intensely collaborative. Sharing ideas and relying on peers for support is encouraged. The setting is sociable and tutors have been chosen for their infectious enthusiasm for the subject matter at hand, as well as their expertise.
Fire Tech Camp is also committed to making its camps and workshops widely accessible. On top of keeping operating costs low and committing to UK regions beyond the capital, we also have a scholarship fund. If the price tag is a little high but you know a budding young techie who would get a lot out of attending a Minecraft workshop, then check out how to apply.
Students will leave a Minecraft course at Fire Tech Camp equipped with the tools they need to develop and expand the complexity of their game-playing in the future. By using Minecraft to expose them to core concepts in computer science, we hope that they find inspiration and enjoyment in equal measure, and their experience goes on to form a small but significant component of a life-long enthusiasm for tech.