Weeklong camp, set for July 16-20 at the Community Center, helps kids design a city and build it using low-tech maker materials and code a game using the block programming language Scratch.

PictureTinkerTech founder Claire Comins. Courtesy image.

In early May, hundreds of children and parents streamed into the Edna Maguire Elementary School multi-purpose room, circulating among a vast array stations designed to spark creativity and do-it-yourself problem-solving at the school’s first-ever Makers Night. It was a jump-into-the-deep-end move by the school’s leadership to infuse maker culture, the tech-centric DIY movement that revels in the creation of new devices and tinkering with existing ones, into the minds of its students.

The event offered kids and parents a chance to dig into an array of mediums, from Legos to Circuit Cubes, a set of electronic building blocks designed to make Lego creations come alive with lights and circuitry. Among those hosting stations was Claire Comins, whose station was swarmed by kids interested in creating “toothpick gumdrop bridges” – essentially a load-bearing bridge made of toothpicks and gumdrops – and a piano keyboard where the “keys” were bananas hooked up to a makey makey controller.

Comins beamed, seeing all the bright-eyed students and marking the latest step forward in her efforts to bring TinkerTech, the educational venture that fuses fun maker activities and coding challenges into a curriculum that spans after-school programs and summer camps. 

“You want children to bring their own passion and interest to the experience,” says the Kentfield resident. “It’s so rewarding to see what each child creates, and the journey that gets them there.”

That journey continues this summer, as Tinkertech, which Comins launched four years ago, offers its first-ever summer camp in Mill Valley – at the Community Center. Set for July 16-20, the camp covers a lot of ground, from kids building the “city of their dreams” using low-tech materials and Circuit Cubes, to learning coding skills by making a game about their city in Scratch, the block programming language from MIT.

The new camp builds off the success of TinkerTech’s summer camps in Larkspur for the past few years, as well as its after-school enrichment programs in Mill Valley and throughout Marin. The camp runs from 9am-4pm, boasts experienced teachers and a scholarship program for students.

“We assume a lot of affluence of Mill Valley, but that’s not always the case, and we want to offer these programs to all,” Comins says. “They just need the right tools and to be taught the right mindset.” 

Comins, a mother of three girls whose family moved to Kentfield from London in 2012, says she’s also interested in helping local schools create stem curriculums and developing publishing materials to guide teachers and parents through STEM subjects.

“This is an educational effort that I’m deeply invested in on all levels,” she says. “I’m thrilled to be able to bring this subject to more children, and to see their eyes light up as they discover these new learning tools.”

The 411: TinkerTech’s new summer camp in Mill Valley is set for July 16-20 at the Mill Valley Community Center. MORE INFO & REGISTER.