(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
Digital Harbor Foundation’s (DHF) Tech Center in Federal Hill was abuzz with young people building, making and programming on Friday.
On this particular morning of summer programming, the Maker Camp participants also got a visit from Maryland Secretary of Commerce Kelly Schulz.
“The earlier you start a child on learning the technology aspects of the world I think the better off they’ll be, not only if they’re going into that career pathway but to be able to have knowledge of what technology means to them in their lives moving forward,” Schulz said.
DHF offers the one-week sessions from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day throughout the summer. The programming is pay-what-you-can, Executive Director Andrew Coy pointed out.
It’s part of programming offered year-round that draws students from 37 different ZIP codes to the Tech Center, which has operated in the former rec center at the corner of Light and Cross streets for six years.
Schulz talked to students about the tools they were using to build. The tables were filled with the tools being used to complete the latest projects: Raspberry Pis, Arduino boards and of course laptops where students were coding in Python. Upon a stop at a group of students gathered at the button-maker, the entrepreneurial spirit woven into the programming came about, as students talked about plan to sell the buttons.
Along the way, Coy pointed out how the materials used for maker education are also used by industry. Along with the tools themselves, he stressed that it’s important that students “learn how to learn.”
“It is what puts you on a pathway to these tech careers that are creative,” Coy said.
For Schulz a couple of takeaways stood out.
- Gender diversity — “I was very heartened to see the gender diversity that we’re seeing here in these programs and the number of young women that want to learn and be creative with different types of technology,” she said. Coy also talked about how the students formed a club within DHF called the Makerettes that brought its work to the community.
- Pathways — Coy talked about how students have gone on to the University of Maryland and RIT, and how Darius McCoy rose from a student became the tech center director. “To hear about the outcomes of some of the students that have gone through these programs, what they are now doing with their lives — whether it be the longer programs during the school year or the camps — and being able to access the information they had as a youth and bringing it into their adult lives is testament to the dedication of the staff and the mission of the center,” Schulz said.
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