The uCity Square lawn in University City was filled with dancing teens and pre-teens yesterday afternoon during the first day of FRSHWV, the technology and music festival that kicked off Philly Tech Week 2023 presented by Comcast this week.
A rainbow painted set of bleachers was the main focal point of the event, with performers and panelists taking the stage throughout the day. Local businesses’ booths framed the perimeter of the lawn, a video game truck invited students to play, and the Blues Babe Foundation offered a metaverse activity.
The goal of FRSHWV was to expose young people to new technology, resources and programs in Philly that can help them pursue technology activities and careers. Yesterday’s event featured panels about music and tech, Afrofuturism and AI, Web3, and gaming and esports.
Throughout the afternoon, groups representing a handful of Philadelphia schools visited the festival in waves, some on field trips with their school and others attending after school hours, said Dyshaun Hines, co-producer of FRSHWV. The second day of the festival was held Friday at IF Lab in Kensington, and Hines said the organizers were also hoping to engage young people through metaverse programming on Spatial, and recordings of the programming.
This reporter attended the FRSHWV during the second half of the first day, at the same time that students from Science Leadership Academy (SLA) Middle School were streaming across the street to join the festival. They raced back and forth across the lawn to play games at the video game truck and dance to performances from Andre Saunders, Verbosity and DJ Will Nasty.
With all of this programming targeted at youth, I was curious if any of the teens in attendance actually wanted a career in tech.
Most I approached said — well, no, not really. But some did.
Idris, 17, attended FRSHWV to complete service hours requirements, but because of his interest in technology, he called it was a “win-win.” Eventually, he said, he wants to work in IT and will probably pursue that career in Philadelphia.
“Back when I was younger, I didn’t know anything about Wi-Fi, I though it was just that you connect to it. ‘Oh, it doesn’t work. Just plug it in and out. Easy fix,'” he said. “But there’s so much more to it, that’s why I find it interesting.”
Natasha, 15, came to the event with Central High School. During the event, she checked out the business vendors and attended the talk about AI and Afrofuturism, where she learned the importance of tech and AI for the future, how tech intersects with creativity, and how Afrofuturism impacts the Black community.
Zachary, 18, volunteered with the Blues Babe Foundation’s booth with his brother and helped out with the metaverse activity.
Both Zachary and Natasha said they were interested in technology and would consider pursuing it in the future; Natasha is especially interested in becoming a biomedical engineer.
Both said Philly feels like a place where they can pursue STEM careers.
“I’ve always felt like if I really wanted to get somewhere or have a really good career, I would start off in Philly but kind of look for outside resources,” she said. “But definitely as I’ve been touring colleges or just coming to events like these, I can see myself staying here in Philadelphia to become what I want to do. I feel like it’s kind of shaping my mind a little bit, how I can change here instead of trying to go to other places.”Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
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