Last week, I went to the Mini Maker Fair at the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem, with my 2 boys (10 yrs old, 7 yrs old). In a great interactive environment, my boys met local “makers” (a new age word for inventors) who had created robots, 3D products in 3D printers, games and more using new technology. My favorite “maker” gave my son a pair of glasses to wear and told him that he could control the mouse on the screen by moving his eyes. Sure enough as he moved his eyes to the right the cursor moved to the right of the screen. This new technology has tremendous potential and yet when I asked the “maker”, a teenager, what he created it for, his response was that he created it for fun.
This got me thinking…how is Israel promoting the Start Up Nation mentality to our youth? Is the mentality in the drinking water? Is it instilled by parents? Can the regular school system instill this love of technology in the students or do we need to rely on after school programs and camps to do this?
As part of my fascination with this topic I sat down with Dotan Tamir, the founder of the BigIdea Camp to discuss what he thinks about the topic.
Hi Dotan…Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am the co-founder of the Big Idea Summer Camp formally known as eCamp. I was inspired by my years of experience as a counselor at a US summer camp on the East Coast, to come back to Israel and start an Israeli version of the summer sleepaway camp experience. The camp opened 7 years ago.
Dotan, what is the Big Idea summer camp experience?
Big Idea is an American style summer camp experience in Israel for local Israeli kids/teens and for kids/teens from around the world. The camp is focused on teaching kids and teens new technology including programming, graphic design, film production, mobile app design, computer game development and more.
Wow…that sounds like a pretty intense summer program?
The program is set up with morning workshops and afternoon American camp style fun including talent shows, colorwar, bonfires, sports & art activities and more. Most of the kids on our program are hungry for learning and for them the workshops are exciting, innovative and a great place for them to explore new topics they won’t learn about in school. The fun part of a summer camp experience is also important to us and many kids choose to take surfing lessons (in the ocean…not on the net) and to go on the week long tiyulim around Israel in between sessions.
What makes this program special?
It’s in Israel! Kids can learn to improve their Hebrew through Gaming and Media workshops, they can meet kids from all over the world and experience Israel through traveling and meeting local campers. Kids learn that Israel is a modern, advanced country where they can make a difference.
In what way are you contributing to the Start Up Nation?
We recently started a new Entrepreneurship program for older teens in conjunction with IDC Herzaliya. Campers are given direction from trained staff to explore their entrepreneurial ideas. Even the younger kids in the camp learn that with the right guidance and equipment they can create amazing things. The camp environment is about learning, independence and fun in Israel.
If there was one message you could give to potential campers around the world, about Israel as a source for innovation, what would it be?
You would be surprised by the amount of opportunities in this small and young country. We believe the best way to explore Israel is through a hands on experience where you will create, innovate and make great friends from over 30 countries.
Thank you for sitting down with me to discuss this…When will you start to run a summer camp for adults?
For now we will stick to camps for kids and teens because their creativity is inspirational.
Fun In Jerusalem Suggests:
In Israel the Start Up Nation mentality begins with the youth. So when you are thinking about how to provide your kids with a fun and exciting summer experience…think of sending them to Israel for the summer.
For more information about Big Idea and other summer camps in Jerusalem and Israel please visit our Summer Camps Guide on Fun In Jerusalem.
This article was originally published in the Times of Israel Blog Section