New Rec2Tech Initiative Teaches Digital Skills In Afterschool Programs

Sep 12, 2016

A self-watering planter is one of the projects, created by Ryan Bates for Rec2Tech, being used to teach digital concepts.
Credit Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

An estimated 20 percent of Pennsylvanians don’t have access to computers or internet, but a new initiative is aiming to close the “digital divide.”

Rec2Tech brings tech opportunities into neighborhoods through afterschool programs.

The city, Sprout Fund and other partners are pairing learning organizations with some of the city’s recreation centers to provide more digital learning opportunities for youth. Rec2Tech launched Monday.  

Every afternoon this week, five recreation centers will provide free, hands-on learning activities.

The Sprout Fund leveraged its Remake Learning Network to help facilitate the program. The organization’s Executive Director Cathy Lewis Long said it’s crucial for youth to have digital literacy to thrive.  

“So participants in these programs will work all week on science, technology, engineering and math projects, to help solve an important local, community problem,” Lewis Long said.

Staci Offutt of Tech Shop said kids at the Phillips Center in Carrick plans to apply engineering techniques to urban gardening, making vertical gardening bags, terrariums and a recycled green house. She said the center has been transformed into both a tech and maker space.

“So we’re using hand sewing and machine sewing,” she said. “Cutting with real scissors, as well as cutting with lasers. We’re really doing it all for these kids. They’re getting ideas, we hope to expand their imagination on how they can grow plants and food, and beautify their spaces.”

The Carnegie Library will bring video game design to Lincoln-Lemington. Digital Corps will work with kids in Beltzhoover to make a hacker space and build virtual reality simulators.

The program is also part of the “inclusive innovation roadmap” launched last year by the city’s Department of Innovation and Performance.

The week culminates with a demonstration of all projects in Schenley Plaza on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.