Twenty soon-to-be 6th graders packed into the Dallas City of Learning Mobile Tech XPerience, the super cool retrofitted RV filled with laptop computers, 3D printers, and Lego sumo robotics. It’s DCoL Tech Day at Billy Earl Dade Middle School and we have a healthy crowd of 145 kids.
It’s a good thing the MTXP is air conditioned, as August 4 in Dallas is always a scorcher.
But it was the churning of ideas, the sizzling vibrations of learning opportunities that truly generated the heat during the 6-hour day. Armed with a bank of 40 DCoL laptops, these students found a fountain of technology that gave them access to 3D printing, robotics, digital music production, garage band, photography, and 3D modeling. Those laptops were portals to a new world where the opportunity gap is but a bygone concept.
The kids inside the MTXP ventured into the multi-dimensional wonderland of 3D printing. With guidance from Karim Virani, Big Thought’s Information Technology Director, and his son, Max Virani, about 14 students stuck around to create a 3D image on a laptop.
Avery Cereceres, 13, an incoming Dade student, says the 3D printing was his favorite activity of the day. Avery has an iPad at home, but not a laptop. He really took to 3D printing. He created a two-toned octagon topped by a science fiction-inspired image. His stance said it all: Spread legs, hands on mouse and keyboards, eyes fixated on the laptop screen.
“You can do all kinds of stuff with it,” he says. “If you need help, you can make it right. They will help you. You can be creative and show the world what you can do. You can inspire people.”
Melissa Villarreal, 11, who will start the 6th grade at Dade, felt inspired by robotics, particularly the connection between the laptops and the robots. Melissa does not have a laptop at home, so this was a fresh experience for her.
“It is fun when you build the robots and make them work,” she says. “It made me feel like I know more about technology. I didn’t know you could use a laptop to help build a robot.”
The ability to engage kids through technology, through the paramount importance of 21st century learning, jumpstarted the pulse of the third DCoL Turn Up! event of 2016, following June’s Discovery Faire at the Dallas Central Library and July’s Frontiers of Flight Turn Up! at Love Field.
“Connecting kids to technology is a direct way to close the opportunity gap,” says Kristina Dove, Big Thought’s Program Manager, Partner Relations. “They find new fascinations, new ways to ignite their imaginations. With those laptops, and the expert guidance of so many of our partners during a very successful DCoL Tech Day at Dade, we made sure students explored and expanded their capacity for learning.”
For Shanya Cherry, 11, who will call Billy Earl Dade Middle School her alma mater later this month, this was a chance for her to learn more about laptops and what they can do. She does have a laptop at home, but the robotics activity was still an eye opener.
“We got to do different stuff with robots and learned different ways you can make it move,” she says. “It was cool to make the robot move with the computer. I knew you could use computers to make robots move, but this was really cool.”
Big Thought and Dallas City of Learning thank Billy Earl Dade Middle School, Project Still I Rise, Keep Spinning DJ Academy, Texas Music Project, Poly Printer, Can Turkyilmaz @turk_studio, and Karim Virani for their incredible dedication to teaching kids technology. We also thank our many DCoL donors for their generosity. For a list of donors, visit bigthought.org/dallascityoflearning.