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Campers at App Camp for Girls huddle around an iPod Touch (Photo: App Camp for Girls)

App Camp for Girls, a summer camp that gives middle school-aged girls a chance to build their own iPhone apps, is coming to Seattle as a part of its second year of operation.

The camp, which started in Portland last year, will run as a one-week session from August 4-8 in North Seattle, in addition to Portland sessions held in mid-July and mid-August.

Jean MacDonald
Jean MacDonald

App Camp began as the brainchild of Jean MacDonald, a former partner at Mac and iOS development firm Smile Software, who was inspired to the program after volunteering for Rock ‘n Roll Camp for Girls in Portland. Campers are taught by a team of women volunteers who are familiar with iOS programming, and given iPod Touches for the week so they can build and test their apps.

MacDonald said it’s a valuable experience for the campers, who are thrilled to work in the environment that App Camp creates.

“We did surveys of the girls, and they were just very excited to have the chance to work with other girls who have the same interest as they do, and not be the only girl in a tech program,” MacDonald said in an interview with GeekWire.

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The program kicked off last year with an Indiegogo campaign that brought in more than $106,000, more than twice the amount initially requested to get off the ground. That sum went towards purchasing equipment and paying for camp expenses.

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In addition to teaching campers about iOS development, App Camp has also expanded the number of women doing iOS development. Because there’s a limited pool of female iOS developers, MacDonald said that they have taught volunteers with a tech or programming background enough iOS development to help teach the campers. That, in turn, has led the volunteers to take up iOS development full-time.

“One of our camp counselors from last summer, who taught herself Ruby, is now a full-time iOS developer,” MacDonald said. “And I think that’s going to happen with some of our counselors from this summer as well.”

As for the future of App Camp, MacDonald is cautiously optimistic about the camp’s expansion. Under the current model, each new App Camp location will be helmed by someone who previously staffed one of the camp’s past sessions elsewhere.

“Next summer, we’re hoping that some of our volunteers this summer will open up App Camps in their location,” MacDonald said. “So, we’re bringing in a couple of women from out of town to volunteer this summer with the girls, and to get familiarity with how App camp works and what we do.”

There are still slots open for this year’s session in Seattle. The week-long camp costs $350, and financial aid is available for families who can’t afford full tuition. People interested in applying can do so here.

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