High schoolers in Greater Newark learned the power of tech skills at Rutgers University—Newark’s first coding camp, a summer program supported by Apple.

Twenty students attended the camp, called (G)eneration Code, where they worked to design and build apps, gaining the knowledge to spark invention and explore careers in technology and beyond. Students also spend time away from the classroom, participating in outdoor activities and team building exercises at the camp, which ended in mid-August.

“Rutgers is committed to offering the youth of Newark and Greater Newark a progressive and productive summer by merging technology, innovation and team building to equip and empower their futures,’’ said Rutgers-Newark Executive Vice Chancellor Sherri-Ann Butterfield. “The program will strategically hone computer science skills obtained by high school students throughout their academic year and interest students in dual enrollment.’’

As part of Apple’s Community Education Initiative, the company provided Rutgers-Newark with hardware, scholarships and professional learning and support for (G)eneration Code.

In addition to learning technical skills, students were encouraged to envision how their projects can solve problems and connect communities.

“At Apple we believe coding is one of the most valuable skills a person can learn, and we think all students should have the access and opportunity to bring their ideas to life,” said Stacy Erb, Apple’s director of Community Education Initiatives. “We are proud to partner with Rutgers-Newark to give students opportunities to learn this skill while developing new connections and uplifting their communities.”

Hamza Waziri, a junior at Newark’s Science Park High School, worked with Code camp classmates on an app that will help people find resources at local food pantries. “This allows us to do something for ourselves and the people around us,’’ said Waziri, an aspiring aerospace engineer. 

“Technology is the future, and learning how to code is really important, especially for the jobs that are going to be there when I get out of school,’’ he said. “It’s important for me to learn these concepts now before I get older.’’

Lori Johnson, who’ll be a senior at East Orange Campus High School, was impressed with the diversity of the guest speakers, which reminded her that Silicon Valley demographics are changing. “It was great to see that there were not just women, but women of color. It helped me feel like I’m not just going out into the world by myself,’’ said Johnson, who plans to network with camp classmates when they graduate from high school.

Although she’s considering a career in fashion – she was working on an app that helps with wardrobe planning—coding skills will help her gain a better understanding of how technology can be used to reach consumers, she said.

“It makes sense to have that skill in my back pocket,’’ added Johnson. “If I were to design an app myself, I would have that knowledge.”  

She described the excitement of seeing her project come to life. “Going from a black screen with just words and lines and codes and seeing it come up and on a launch page, to know you actually created something, it’s a great feeling.”

Tino Koumapley, a Rutgers-Newark Computer Science Major and class instructor, informed students of the many ways coding can be used. “It’s very important at the current moment we’re in,” he said. “You can use it to do so many things. You can build games and applications, you can solve problems with coding. You can go into software engineering, you could be a project manager, work in data science, cyber security. There are so many different roads to take.”