Last month (July 9-15)Â in Raleigh, North Carolina, Red Hat held a summer tech camp for 52 rising 8th and 9th-grade students. At this camp, students could choose to learn how to use open source software in one of four tracks: web design, video, audio, and 3D modeling/animation. Blender was the application of choice for the 3D track. While students in the other three tracks were instructed by Red Hat employees, the 14 students in the 3D course were taught by three blenderheads who volunteered from the community: Jonathan Williamson (mr_bomb), Jeffery McGregor (Enzoblue), and Jason "Groo" van Gumster (Fweeb).
Over the course of 5 days, the students were exposed to concepts and techniques in 3D modeling and animation using Blender. The first two days were purely instructional; walking the students through Blender's interface with tutorials on hard body and organic modeling. On the third day, the students were set loose on their own individual projects. Since they only had the lab for 3 hours each day, the expectation was that the students would model a small, relatively simple scene. Amazingly, they met and actually exceded these expectations with over half of the class completing short animations. And they weren't just simple object animations; quite a few used advanced features like the armature system, particles, and even soft bodies. It was truly impressive work and it is online now (links below).
The purpose of Red Hat High is to get students, especially from under-represented groups like women and minorities, interested in science and technology at an early age. With the students that attended in this first pilot year, all indications point to a great success. And the best part about this program is that since all of the tracks used open source software, the students can continue to feed their interest and learn more even after the camp is over. Hopefully with this year's success, there will be another Red Hat High next year and the years following. There's even talk that in a few years, there may be similar programs in China, India, Brazil and Eastern Europe. This is definitely an exciting time for open source software.
And yes, the 'Blender course' was the most popular track of the program. :)