In a collaboration of iD Tech Camps, the Annenberg Foundation, and the L.A. Promise Fund, 200 South L.A. students were able to participate in a week-long tech camp at UCLA and Loyola Marymount University.
By Jason Lewis
Over the past few years there has been a major push by community service organizations, educators, and philanthropists to introduce tech-based fields to elementary through high school students in South Los Angeles and Inglewood. Many communities in those areas, along with areas of color from around the nation, have not had great access to technology as a part of their education. That has led to a lack of diversity in the booming tech career fields.
With a desire to increase opportunities for underserved youth in technology spaces, iD Tech and the Annenberg Foundation, whose initiative “AnnenbergTech” has been focused on providing access to tech opportunities for all Angelenos, are among the organizations that are providing free technology programs for children of color. They created “Coding Our Future LA,” a free week-long STEM camp for 200 students from South Los Angeles communities. L.A. Promise Fund recruited the students to participate in the program, which was held at UCLA and Loyola Marymount University.
“The purpose of the program is to reach students who would not be able to attend this type of program, and to really engage with underrepresented communities,” said Ylka van Bemmel Reiss, director of social impact for Coding Her Future, an iD Tech initiative. “About 80 percent of the L.A. vicinity is African American and Latinx, but only about 12 percent of engineers nationally are diverse. We’re trying to change that. We’re trying to open the opportunity and pipeline for this potential career track.”
African Americans and Latinos, like everybody else, use technology throughout the day. Nearly every task that people perform uses some form of technology. But one issue is that Blacks and Latinos tend to be consumers of it instead of being employed in technology fields. Obtaining these lucrative positions typically requires specialized training and education, the sort of which may not be easily accessible.
“Kids consume technology all the time, but our students are actually learning how to create using technology,” Reiss said. “They’re taking it to the next level, and we’re helping them refine their skills.”
The students worked on coding, robotics, engineering, and game design. Many of the children already had some coding skills. Thirteen-year old Jaimarie Murphy, who attends Connections Academy, was working on 3-D modeling with Java at the camp, started working with computers when she was eight years old, and she edits videos on her computer at home.
“I want to be an engineer when I get older, and I want to learn the technology part behind it,” Murphy said. “Like designing buildings and making the blueprints. It will help me design the layout of what I want to create. And then I can use a program to measure the widths and heights.”
Gregory Chagilla, who is heading into the 8th grade at John Adams Middle School, worked on deciphering codes while he was at the camp.
“I want to be a robotic engineer,” Chagilla said. “I’m going to be dealing with programing because electronic devices cannot worth without programing.”
Many teenagers are immersed in the hip hop culture and they are using technology to create their own music. Sixteen-year-old Deon Rogers, who is heading into his junior year at Augusta F. Hawkins High School, makes hip hop beats using a mobile app. While at the camp, he learned how to use Adobe Premiere, a video editing program, to create videos that matches the beats that he makes.
“When I upload MP3 files to my YouTube channel (z0mbie), instead of having a blank canvas while the music is playing, I can have pictures that pertains to the beat,” Rogers said. “That will grab the eye.”
Coding Our Future L.A. is a pilot program, and iD Tech is looking to partner with local STEM programs. For more information about iD Tech, visit their website at www.idtech.com. The Annenberg Foundation is a family foundation that provides funding and support to nonprofit organizations. Visit their website at www.annenberg.org. L.A. Promise Fund is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preparing Los Angeles students for success in college, professional career, and in life. Visit their website at www.lapromisefund.org.