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Cyber Summer

Kids are flocking to camps that teach tech skills

When kids at Pete Findley's Cybercamps mention the Apache, they're not playing cowboys and Indians--they're talking about the Web's most popular server.

As the director of a pool in Seattle for five years, Findley, (top left), heard a lot about kids and technology. Parents would ask for summer-camp recommendations, and often they wanted a camp that emphasized tech education. Findley, now 26, didn't know of any. But as a student in the University of Washington's entrepreneurship program, Findley did know an opportunity when he saw one. He put $4,000 on his credit cards and started a camp himself.

That first summer, in 1997, Findley drummed up 122 kids by posting flyers in schools. Now, Cybercamps operates at 24 college campuses, offering classes from basic computer skills to multimedia, 3-D modeling, and robotics. Some 5,000 7-to-16-year-olds attended Cybercamps this summer, bringing the company $2.0 million. "They do a pretty good job of making computers understandable," says 12-year-old Jill Cartano, a two-time Cybercamper from Seattle. "It's so satisfying when you see your final project."

Findley swears this isn't as nerdy as it sounds. "Our philosophy is that human brains learn best when they're having fun," he says. And for sure, there are fun people around. Cybercamps' creative director, Pat Clark, used to be the lead animator on The Simpsons. Now, he's developing software to teach kids computer skills.

While business jumped nearly fourfold just this year, Findley is seeking new sources of growth. Cybercamps has partnered with Stanford University to produce workshops for older students. Next, Cybercamps hopes to sell stand-alone software to help anyone learn tech skills year-round. They'd better hurry. Jill Cartano wants to learn 3-D modeling--and she doesn't want to wait for camp. By Kimberly Weisul


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