Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Public Workshop turned a tricycle into a colorful workshop on wheels

See the teen-built creation on Nov. 20 at 42nd Street and Lancaster Avenue, along with other youth design projects.

IT students at St. George's Technical High School in Middletown hope to donate at least one gaming "GOKart" to a local hospital.

Students at St. George's Technical High School hold an annual Freshmen Community Service Day near the end of each school year — a project that convenes students on similar career paths for the sake of team building and giving back to their community. This year, freshmen in the Middletown votech's IT Academy decided to hold a game-a-thon fundraiser on May 30, with proceeds going toward Gamers Outreach Foundation, a Michigan-based nonprofit that provides equipment and technology that allows hospitalized kids access to video games. It may sound less than vital to provide sick kids with video games, but for children who are confined to a hospital bed for a period of time, gaming has improved the quality of life of some hospitalized children to the point that some doctors actually prescribe video game time to reduce anxiety and even pain. Most hospitals have video games in a common playroom area. But for kids who aren't able to leave their beds, Gamers' Outreach provides what they call "GOKarts" — movable game systems that can be brought to the bedside. The IT Academy hopes to raise enough money to donate at least one GOKart to a local hospital. James Sekcienski, an IT/programming and design instructor at St. George's Tech, first got the idea to do a game-a-thon for children's hospital at the Young Innovator's Fair at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center. "I had an interest in organizing an event like this, since it allows students to use their interest in gaming to give back to their community," he said to Technical.ly. "I was researching to see if there were community organizations that would allow us to support a local hospital in Delaware when I came across the Gamers Outreach Foundation." When he shared it with his students, they agreed — sometimes from personal experience — that providing hospitalized kids with access to gaming was a worthy cause. "With this being the first year, our game-a-thon is more social with friendly competition to allow the students to get to know each other," said Sekcienski. "In the future, I would love to expand the event to include more students and to include gaming tournaments to help raise more money to be able to donate more GOKarts." Interested in helping them reach their goal? You can make a donation here.

Update: Due to rain, the Lancaster Avenue event has been postponed till Nov. 20. (11/6/14, 2:22 p.m.)

A group of young people is beautifying West Philly’s Lancaster Avenue, one design project at a time.

On Nov. 20, they’ll unveil a brightly-colored community message board at 42nd Street and Lancaster Avenue. It’s a project, organized by youth design organization Public Workshop with collaboration from the People’s Emergency Center, to unite the neighborhood through communication and news sharing.

At the Nov. 20, Public Workshop will host a flier-making workshop and youth will talk about their current and future projects.

message board lancaster ave

Public Workshop members with the community message board they built. (Photo via Facebook)

Also on display at the Nov. 20 event will be Public Workshop’s Mobile Maker Cart, a tricycle turned workshop on wheels, designed and built by Public Workshop teens. The cart, which transports tools but also acts as a “rolling billboard” for Public Workshop and its parent org Department of Making + Doing, features an expandable workbench, a colorful canopy, a smartphone speaker and wooden handlebar grips, said Public Workshop founder Alex Gilliam.

The cart, as Gilliam puts it, is meant “to inspire other people to make and do great things.” He wrote in an email: “Every single part on the bike that could be has been replaced with custom wood parts designed and fabricated by our Building Heroes. The bike screams ‘handmade’ and ‘you can do this!'”

The teens behind the maker cart will teach classes this month on how to build parts of the maker cart. It’s an effort to show that this kind of “making” is accessible to everyone, according to a release.

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Funded by an ArtPlace America grant, Public Workshop’s Lancaster Avenue projects are part of a local “maker” movement to get youth interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) via hands-on projects.

Public Workshop is specifically focused on design and community. Schools across the city are building makerspaces for students and earlier this week, the Free Library announced that it won a $500,000 federal grant to expand its own “Maker Jawn” after-school program.

In an email, Gilliam described the impact, so far, of the community message board:

Not long after they started, Anderson (age 7), his friends, other teens and adults such as Fajr started helping the team, temporarily transforming the lot into a vibrant maker space of building, learning and creative activity. Cars stopped in the midst of rush hour traffic and honked. Business owners asked to hire the team to help with other projects. Neighbors stopped by with ideas for other community improvements. People tried to buy the team’s picnic table. Individuals came seeking help with their inventions. Many stopped by just to say they wanted to see more projects in the neighborhood designed and built by teens/community members like the message board.

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