The Miller Institute
 for Learning with Technology

Our Summer Camp and After School programs strongly emphasize Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics [STEM] as well as technology-enabled Media Arts. Depending on the offering, our target audience ranges from students entering 4th grade to high school seniors, plus a new exploratory robotics program for grades K-3. We emphasize self-paced, technology-rich, hands-on activities with a low ratio of students to instructors. We try to foster positive attitudes toward STEM, confidence, competency, self-esteem, curiosity, lifelong learning, and 21st century workforce skills. Historically, our strongest offerings have involved Computer Science and Information Technology. However, we are always adding new topics, with a growing emphasis on other aspects of STEM. Career opportunities in STEM fields have grown three times faster than in other areas over the last decade, yet the U.S.ranks at the bottom of the developed world in graduating new professionals with STEM majors. Descriptions of our upcoming, ongoing/recent offerings and efforts to reach out to underserved students follow.

Sign up for our 2014 Fall Workshops!

Sign up for our 2014 Fall Workshops!

Additional Topic Descriptions
Details Adjusted for Grade and Prior Experience

Lego Mindstorms
Beginning to Intermediate LEGO Mindstorms Robotics
Assemble and program an autonomous robot using Lego Mindstorms. Initially build stock examples and download recommended programs using a graphical user interface and flowcharting language. Build a "floor turtle" that can draw geometric figures or navigate a maze, a robotic "dog" that follows its owner and barks, a marble sorting machine that recognizes colors, or a humanoid "walker" bot. Learn some fundamental computer programming concepts including flow of control, conditionals, loops, and variables. Best of all, after trying a few of the standard examples, create new robots of your own design while exploring important ideas in mechanics and mathematics!
Build A Computer
Raspberry Pi & Intro to Linux
Build your own Linux computer based on the Raspberry Pi motherboard! The Raspberry Pi is a $35 ARM-based computer with HMDI and stereo audio out, 10/100 Ethernet, 2 USB ports, and minimal power requirements. Explore the world of Linux with your very own credit card sized computer. Raspberry Pi Computer Assembly requires purchase of parts at our cost (est. $160 depending on configuration). Either a desktop or a "mobile" (laptop-like) version can be built and taken home to keep. This topic and Python are most suitable for Grades 5 and up. Assembly and software installation requires about one day, leaving most of the week to learn about the Raspian version of the Linux operating system, including built-in programming environments such as Scratch and Python. Shell scripting and text editing tools such as Emacs are also covered.
Computers & Music
Computers & Music
Learn how music and technology can work together. Use tools like GarageBand to quickly and easily produce your own multi-part tunes. Create a rhythm track to back up your own solo. Think about important musical ideas such as themes and variations, or the relationship between melody notes and changes in the harmony . Create an original work! Understand the differences between synthesizers and samplers. Learn about different types of music software, such as sequencers, notation software, and practice tools such as Band in a Box. Make a "mashup" or a podcast! Connect a midi controller keyboard to a computer. Ask local music ians about the technology used on their gigs!
Create Your Own 2D Games from Scratch
Why settle for computer games written by grownups, when you can create your own cool games, animated stories or simulations, that do what you want? Programming environments such as Stagecast Creator, MIT's Scratch and UC Berkeley's BYOB empower students with no prior experience to create exciting games, stories and powerful simulations after only a few hours of exposure. Deep computer science concepts such as object-orientation, rule-based programming, and programming by example are embedded in easy-to-learn, graphical frameworks. Problem-solving and debugging skills learned in the programming context can be generalized and applied in a wide variety of non-computer settings. With appropriate content and parental permission, Scratch worlds can even be published on the Web! Even for Scratch experts, attending this program will now enable you to learn about the amazing new features of recently released Scratch 2.0!
Create Your Own 3D Games and Stories using CMU's Alice
Students who have already learned to create 2D computer games - using tools such as Stagecast Creator or MIT's Scratch - are soon eager to move on to 3D. Carnegie Mellon University [CMU] has created a free, cross-platform programming tool, called Alice, to harness the power of 3D programming in an accessible format. Boys love the ability to create 3D action games, and girls love the ability to make 3D animated movies that tell a story. The CMU folks describe it like this: "Alice is an innovative 3D programming environment that makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web. Alice is a teaching tool for introductory computing. It uses 3D graphics and a drag-and-drop interface to facilitate a more engaging, less frustrating first programming experience." Deep computer science concepts such as objects, variables and control structures, as well as higher order thinking skills such as planning and debugging, are learned at the same time that creative skills are unlocked, pursuing fun, authentic goals.
Electrical Circuit
Introduction to Electricity and Electronics
Learn to solder and create a "blinkie" (decorative pin with blinking LED lights) you can keep and wear. Use basic electrical and electronic components to create and understand simple circuits. Use a Meter to verify Ohm's Law. Investigate the effect on the LED of changing the value of a resistor connected in series. Compare series and parallel circuits. Add transistors and build astable and bistable multivibrators. Learn about how computer logic gates are created from transistors. Create a simple computer memory or an adder. Amplify analog signals to control motors or other devices. Learn about energy storage and how electricity relates to magnetism. Learn how logic gates are combined to create complex computer circuits to perform arithmetic and logical functions, testing your ideas with the CEDAR logic simulator. Explore flip-flops and computer memories.
Google Earth and Geocaching
Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment. In recent offerings, we have worked with Coastside STEM to integrate this with Google Earth on iPads.
Advanced Robotics
Intermediate to Advanced Robotics with NXT-Python
Familiar with the basics of LEGO Mindstorms? Move up to the greater expressive power of text-based programming with NXT-Python! Develop higher order thinking skills including planning and debugging. Learn science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the robotics context. Learn to work as part of team preparing for a competitive event. Build a "worker bot" to pick up objects, carry them to a destination and drop them off; a "battle bot" using sensor input to outwit predators; a Mars Rover designed to search for blue water while avoiding craters; or a even an artificially-intelligent robot capable of playing Tic-Tac-Toe!
Unix Introduction
Introduction to Unix-like Operating Systems
Learn about Linux and other variations of Unix, including the BSD roots of the modern Macintosh operating system. Start to use the Mac Terminal or the Linux command line to accomplish tasks that are tedious or even inaccessible from the Graphical User Interface [GUI]. Understand the differences between a word processing application and a programmer-oriented text editor such as vi or Emacs. Write command line shell scripts and use keyboard macros to automate repetitive tasks. Learn about the different varieties of Linux such as Ubuntu and Red Hat, and compare the GUIs available for Linux systems such as Gnome and KDE. Explore open source apps such as Open Office.
Digital Story
Tell a Digital Story with Pictures and Sound
Write and produce a compelling digital story for yourself, family, friends or a wider audience. Learn to convey big ideas and strong emotions within the strict time constraints of a short clip, capturing and keeping viewer/listener attention. Plan and script your project using a "storyboard." Use iPhoto or iMovie to produce your own video. Use cinematic tools, artwork, sound effects, video effects and transitions. Take a seat in the director's chair! Curriculum inspired by Berkeley's Center for Digital Storytelling. With appropriate content and permission of guardian, your story could even be published on the Internet.
Troubleshooting 101 / Classroom Technology Officers
Hands-on activities illustrate specific procedures to help teachers and family with preventive maintenance, troubleshooting and problem resolution, on Windows and Mac computers, networks, and printers. Take apart a working computer and then put it back together again! Play the "troubleshooting game" -- "break" a working computer (under supervised conditions) -- then try to fix one broken by another team. Acquire the same skills used daily by Information Technology [IT] professionals. More importantly develop habits of mind that apply to many areas outside of the narrow technology context. Observe how troubleshooting techniques parallel the Scientific Method.

Ongoing/Recent Offerings, Through July 2014

Extreme STEAM High Tech Summer Camps, San Carlos SMART-E, July 7-11, July 14-18, July 21-25

Local Robotics and STEM Clubs and Programs

San Mateo County Community Stem Alliance

As a founding partner in the San Mateo County Community STEM Alliance [SMCCSA], we currently offer ten after school programs (some grades 4-5, others grades 6-8), spanning three cities, through a grant from San Mateo County. These programs are tuition-free and emphasize outreach to students who were not otherwise being adequately served. Signups are through the Parks and Recreation Department at each respective city. This grant funding will last through May, 2013, although we hope that additional funding sources can be found to allow us to continue these offerings next year. Peninsula TV recently aired a video segment highlighting these County-wide efforts. Additional information about our SMCCSA offerings can be found on the Coastside STEM web site.

Intersession Elective at Summit Public Schools

In January and May-June, annually, we offer an in-school Computer Science and Information Technology elective for students at Summit Preparatory Charter High School and Everest Public High School. We also offer this program at Rainier and Tahoma High Schools in San Jose as of 2013. Our curriculum has been approved for University of California A-G credit. Students turn in all assignments as online digital portfolios, which they create as HTML files.


Many educators ask us whether it would be possible to provide our programs at their schools. Our intent is to serve as many students as possible. Naturally, scaling up requires lead time for planning, plus additional resources. Our costs to deliver these types of programs depend on the format (in-school, after-school, day camp?), locale and venue. For sustainability, we typically require revenue equivalent to a dozen or more paid tuitions. After School programs are currently offered only in locations near where our regular Instructors reside. Summer Camps can delivered at other locations, including outside California, provided sufficient revenues to also offset travel expenses for Instructors would be realized. We also offer professional development for educators wishing to learn from our work but operate their own programs. We are always looking for grant funding to enable us to deliver tuition-free programs in underserved communities. In the case of tuition-based programs, we also do our best to identify sources for scholarship funding, to ensure that students are not excluded because of financial hardship.