Special to The Weekly
ORONO — “I founded my first company when I was nine, my second when I was 11, and my third when I was 12 — all with a focus on technology,” said Elizabeth Chabe, CEO and founding partner of High Touch Group. “I was a bit of an odd duck, but I found a community of kids online doing the same thing.”
Today, Chabe is working to provide young techies, entrepreneurs and dreamers with the skills and support necessary to launch their own ideas. She founded High Touch Group in 2010 to help startup businesses find funding and market their ideas, and this year, her company is opening a summer technology camp.
The High Touch Courses Summer Technology Camp takes place on the University of Maine campus in Orono for one to four weeks during July. It offers middle and high school students the opportunity to learn about software, hardware, design and entrepreneurship. Each weeklong course covers a different subject — Web design, 3D art and graphic design, game development, or hardware architecture — and concludes with a presentation of students’ independent projects.
“Some of the older kids have been coding for years and will be working very independently. Some of the kids have never done anything like this before. So long as they’re curious, we want them here,” said Chabe.
Students are divided into middle and high school tracks, but they will be allowed to progress at their own pace within these groups. With a one to four student-faculty ratio, each camper is able to receive personalized attention based on their interests and proficiency. The camp faculty includes high-profile tech industry names such as Chuck Carter, who worked on the bestselling video games “Myst” and “Command & Conquer.”
The Summer Technology Camp provides options for day and night campers. Both groups will complete intensive, hands-on work with the equipment at UMaine’s Innovative Media, Research and Commercialization Center, which opened last year, and enjoy meals at campus dining halls. Night campers can participate in evening activities, including science-fiction movie viewings, video game competitions, swimming at the recreation center and hikes on campus trails. At the end of the night, they will retire to the UMaine dormitories.
“The University of Maine has been great,” said Chabe. “Everyone is extremely helpful and positive.”
The Summer Technology Camp is just a small part of High Touch Group’s educational initiative. In the fall, the company will launch online courses in subjects ranging from programming and video game development to technology entrepreneurship. The initial semester of online courses will be available for free to all Summer Technology Campers.
Chabe and her colleagues have something even bigger in the works though.
“Our ultimate goal is to start a physical private high school, co-located on a University of Maine campus, that focuses on technology entrepreneurship,” said Chabe. “We really want to give a second home to kids who want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or the next Elon Musk [cofounder of SpaceX, PayPal Inc. and Tesla Motors].” High Touch Group has received enthusiastic support for the idea and plans to make it a reality by 2016.
The Summer Technology Camp will begin July 7. To register for one or more of the weeklong courses, visit hightouchcourses.com. For information on High Touch Group, go to hightouchgroup.com or check out its Facebook page.