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“How many of you have put together a computer before? How many of you have written code before?”

Those were the opening questions from members of EveryoneOn and Kano asked a group of young people at The Friedman, Billings, Ramsey (FBR) Branch of Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington at THEARC. This is the second year of the youth computer build event, which was made possible through collaboration between dcConnectHome, EveryoneOn, Kano, and the FBR Boys and Girls Club. EveryoneOn is a non-profit leading the national ConnectHome initiative to bridge the digital divide by making sureHUD-assisted families have access to low-cost, high-speed Internet access, and the knowledge to use it. Kano is a London-based technology company that has created the first do-it-yourselfcomputer kit designed to help people of all ages assemble a computer from scratch, and learn basic coding skills. 

EveryoneOn, along with Kano staff, assisted the young people from DCHA’s public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs in building their own Kano computers and showing them the basics of coding once the computers were functional.

dcConnectHome is led by the Office of the Mayor and DCHA, and is one of 28 communities nationwide selected in 2015 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to participate in ConnectHome. Partnerships are the key to dcConnectHome’s success—national partnerships established by HUD ConnectHome, like the one with Kano, have been instrumental in providing technology based opportunities for DCHA residents. 

 “One in four D.C. residents doesn’t have internet access at home,” said Amber Petty, EveryoneOn’s senior manager of National Programs. “We want to make sure folks in HUD-assisted housing aren’t left behind.”

Broadband adoption rates differ significantly along socio-economic, geographic and ethnic or racial lines. President Barack Obama started the ConnectHome initiative to increase connectivity. In the District of Columbia, while the broadband adoption rate has increased to over 75 percent in recent years, adoption rates in low-income communities lag behind.

As the tweens and teenagers quietly followed the directions to build their computer, listening for beeps and watching for flashing lights, Petty said, “Most of these kids don’t know the tech sector is a viable [career] option to them. We hope [this activity] inspires them.”

dcConnectHome uses a holistic approach based on the belief that effective, sustainable digital inclusion includes the entire family.  D.C.’s approach casts a wide net that includes in-home/community space Wi-Fi connectivity, early childhood education content, college preparation, workforce development, and STEM educational opportunities for youth.

The event taught 45 youth how to put together their simple computers. Once the computers were functioning, screens and keyboards were added. The youth then followed directions on the screen to code simple works of art and get the feel of coding. Soon, they were learning how to code games for them to play. Once finished, they could take their new, handmade computers home to continue coding.

“Once they get engaged, they are really engaged,” said Petty, who noted that the FBR Boys and Girls Club features a Teen Tech Center where club members between the ages of 13 and 18 can come in to learn how to use 3-D printers, code, practice digital photography, make music, and more.

In fact, members of the Teen Tech Center served as facilitators throughout the event on July 14.

In the absence of funding from HUD ConnectHome, dcConnectHome successfully connected 1,785 households throughout DCHA’s portfolio to high speed internet thanks to dcConnectHome. Nearly 760 school-age children live within the 1,785 households.

For more information on resources available on computer literacy, visit bit.ly/EOtrainingresources.

 

 

 

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Last modified: 8/3/2017 3:28:17 PM