Education / 2013

South LA + HackerSpace = Innovative youth community united to learn technology skills together

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by URBAN Teens Exploring Technology ( TXT )

Imagine what life could be like if a teen in South Los Angeles could see more computers than liquor stores while walking home from school. Imagine if South LA did not have the highest unemployment rate in the city but instead produced the highest number of tech pioneers in the country. URBAN Teens eXploring Technology (URBAN TxT), a local nonprofit with a city-wide focus, seeks to accomplish that by building a technology innovation center in one of the most underinvested areas in the city. URBAN TxT will build a “hacker space” - a space with technology equipment and an open-door policy for everyone who wants to express creativity, address social issues through computer programing, and innovate through collaboration. URBAN TxT’s hacker space will also be BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) by providing wireless connectivity so that those with computers, tablets or phones can come in to work on individual or team projects. At this space you will find individuals with different levels of technology experience who will help each other master 21st century skills. In an area of the city where teens will come across more prostitutes than parks, a community space that unites technology and innovative thinking will transform the landscape of how the community interacts within itself and with the city. URBAN TxT’s hacker space is the next logical step for a program that has used computer programming and web development over the past three years to set inner city youth on a path of leadership and STEM careers. More importantly, the hacker space will be a sanctuary for the next generation of leaders so that they can learn the skills needed to fulfill today’s job opportunities and to excel in the jobs of tomorrow. URBAN TxT’s vision for a hacker space is bigger than a community center that uses technology to bring everyone together for an innovative and better future. It will prepare students for college and beyond, while empowering those not in school and educating parents so everyone can succeed in the working world. Investing in a South LA technology innovation center, or hacker space, means investing where we’ll see the biggest impact. The population of South LA is hungry for success and opportunity because life there does not offer an easy path. The area sees more than half of its students drop out of school. With 32% of African Americans unemployed and Latinos not far behind, it’s imperative we do something to shift trends and prevent further damage. URBAN TxT’s hacker space will empower a population that has a drive to succeed which has not yet been nurtured. Although the direct investment is localized to South LA, the benefits go past the city of LA. The space will be available to everyone who wants to use technology and creativity in a positive manner. Better yet, because technology breaks down physical barriers, a part of the city that currently has an abysmal 30% of homes with internet access could be connected to all parts of the world. URBAN TxT's hacker space will also provide a community space for schools, churches, non-profit organizations and others that need to add tech to their curriculums. The space will serve as a venue for community events, like the South LA Hack-A-Thon which already happened once in February and will happen again on April 13th, 2013, to further bring the community together. Education will be heavily impacted through URBAN TxT's hacker space. The initiative will increase attendance rates of inner city youth to 4-year universities, engage students in the educational process through a recreational outlet with professional benefits, and will increase scholarship opportunities by providing students with valuable skills and experience. URBAN TxT's hacker space will further impact education by uniting diverse and specialized skill sets thanks to and through partnerships. The space will allow for workshops on new programming languages, forums with founders of tech start-ups and team building activities using different educational techniques. The impact on the indicator can be predicted because URBAN TxT is already seeing these results. 100% of graduating seniors that go through URBAN TxT have gone on to 4-year universities, all students come out of the program with advanced tech knowledge, founders and executive from small and large tech companies are already involved, students have higher aspirations and confidence levels, and the program continuously explores learning methods that create accountability between students while producing better results. The group started out meeting at a local coffee shop already released its first product built by students, YouPolitic.me. Students built the online platform in the summer of 2012 as a way to engage high school students in the political process. The site runs mock elections, aggregates data and allows for easy sharing. URBAN TxT represents the future of education and business, with responsibility first and enterprise second.


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

Over the past three years URBAN Teens eXploring Technology has experienced many achievements:

  • 70% of the students in the program go on to computer engineering degrees. -100% of the students graduate high school and
  • 90% go on to a four-year university.
  • Program has a 100% retention rate
  • 60% students have made an upswing in academic performance while top performers maintain high grades
  • 25% of program alumni come back during the summer to mentor and serve as project manager of the teens
  • 75% increase in understanding the power of technology to change communities
  • The video entry for this wonderful grant was created, directed, produced and edited by URBAN TxT members and alumni

One of URBAN TxT’s biggest achievements happened during the summer of 2012, when a 5-member student team launched YouPolitic.me. The students created a web-based platform which engages youth in the political discussion and educates them on candidates’ platforms by creating mock elections. The site has now been live for close to 9 months and continues to grow.

Recent press coverage: Inc.: http://tinyurl.com/brnajo5 Intersections South LA: http://tinyurl.com/cwa3msc Intersections South LA: http://tinyurl.com/chu25lx LAist: http://tinyurl.com/lofqsw VolunTeen Nation: http://tinyurl.com/creka3y

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

32st MAST School, Markham Middle School, Manual Arts HS, Foshay School, John Muir, ICEF Schools, Alliance Schools :Will help promote youth involvement and tech education among students in the area

West Adams School: Will collaborate on project base learning curriculum

Iglesia De Dios Camino Santidad: Provide technology training to their members

DropLabs: Collaborate with them to put on workshops for South LA community

Nation Builder: Collaborate to provide Data Management Training to NPO , provide internships for our youth

ZeroDivide: Will help us strategically expand our technology efforts to larger communities and will provide internships for our youth

Microsoft BizSpark: Collaborate to provide Microsoft phone development

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

URBAN Teens eXploring Technology (URBAN TxT) is all about results, tracking and data. Success for URBAN TxT’s hacker space impact of education in Los Angeles will be measured through community involvement in educational activities, new skills development across all age groups and a growing social enterprise model based around education and trends:

Community involvement:

  • At least 25 members will visit the space an average of 4 times per week, every month
  • Develop relationships with 50% of local organizations in the first year on uniting the community and creating awareness for educational and community resources

New skills development:

  • Educate 5 new business owners how to increase sales and productivity through technology every month
  • Teach 1 organization who had no digital presence how to create a digital footprint every month
  • Coach 2 organizations who had small or limited digital presences grow their digital foot print every month
  • Create 1 class of technology ambassadors every 6 months to educate the rest of the city on the power of technology in the community environment

Growing social enterprise:

  • Have students and community members create and launch 5 products per year
  • Provide internship spring break, summer and winter internship programs to educate students on professional behavior, leadership, technology and business as a way to prepare them for college and the working world

For those who enroll in URBAN TxT’s summer program, success will be measured by:

  • 90% of youth will enroll in higher education
  • 90% of youth will graduate High School
  • 80% of students participating in summer programs will master web develop by creating a web port
  • Increase awareness of STEM careers and majors by 100% percent
  • Improve collaboration skills by 70%
  • Increase students knowledge of HTML by 60%
  • Increase confidence and leadership by 50%

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

URBAN TxT’s hacker space will benefit Los Angeles by creating an innovation hub in one of the areas with the highest number of youths and the lowest number of educational opportunities. The open access to technology and educational resources will keep kids off the street while arming them with the skills they actually need to not just survive, but excel in life. An innovation center that doubles as a technological sanctuary will make our younger generations more appealing to future employees, prepare them to be the best professionals in LA, and more importantly, give them the business and technology skills so that they can start their own ventures.

Detention rooms in our South Los Angeles high schools are filled with African American and Latino males. High incarceration and dropout rates plague male students in South Los Angeles as on average 54% of them will not graduate high school. Those who graduate school are often times unprepared to enter the workforce. This creates a growing skills gap for STEM positions in which demand outweighs the supply of a skilled workforce, especially in South LA. URBAN TxT’s hacker space tackles the root issues and turns what is now a weakness into a strength. The hacker space is part of a larger vision that will turn LA into the breeding ground for the next wave of innovators and visionaries of the world.

By giving a person of any age, background, ethnicity or religion the skills to innovate and a safe place to do so, we unleash vast amounts of untapped potential that would have otherwise been wasted. URBAN TxT’s hacker space will be the catalyst that will turn a poverty stricken, gang infested and crime riddled area into a case study for what could be if the right people assets and capital were in place. The hacker space will spark a movement towards more collaboration in learning, innovative use of resources and spaces to drive new ideas and a dedication to education and personal growth unlike anything the city has seen before.

A technology driven community space like URBAN TxT’s hacker space will open up a world of opportunities to all members of the community. This space will encourage everyone to innovate, use its resources to find job opportunities and online educational programs and to discover what the world has to offer through technology. The hacker space will spark more than just our youths, it will spark unity and forward thinking within an area that continues to fall behind the rest of the city and the country. Community members will be encouraged to take advantage of free online classes through programs like iTunes U while connecting with people all over the world with software like Skype of Google+ Hangouts.

The benefits of URBAN TxT’s hacker space go well past South LA. The organization will create a team of ambassadors to share knowledge and the vision for technology and education merging together. The team will share findings with the city, while inviting everyone to be a part of it.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

Educational success in 2050 will look like an evolved, transformed and improved version of what education in Los Angeles is today. Through URBAN TxT’s project Los Angeles will be exposed to a world of opportunities that will shift current trends towards a positive direction and will engage many and most members of society in education.

Our vision for education in 2050 aims to become a model of how project-base learning can be use to engage students in computer programming through collaboration.

If a center like URBAN TxT’s hacker space works in South LA to engage what is currently one of the most disengaged communities, then it can work anywhere. Over the past years URBAN TxT has already proved that the model works and the organization has not had a dedicated innovation space. With an assigned space in the area that needs it most the benefits will grow exponentially.

This space will be a hub that will inspire the city to think different about how technology and education can transform a community. It will inspire collaborative creative thinking and will provide a place where learning will be looked at as a “cool” thing to do, which is the first step to transforming a broken educational system.

At our space people will become ambassadors of innovative thinking. The skills they learn will be used to go teach others at schools through out Los Angeles . Los Angeles needs to be inspire in order to thrive , by inspiring South LA we can inspire all of LA to become a city of innovators.

South LA in 2050 will be a thriving community that’s known for thinking differently and creatively. In 2050 teens will be part of a innovative culture that empowers them to be pioneers and visionaries through technology and community working together.

In 2050 education will be a community-based activity that connects individuals with the outside world, showing them the vast amount of opportunities available. Education will be the biggest asset a person can have, and it will be easily accessible thanks to technology and collaboration.

Through URBAN TxT’s hacker space education will become the fabric of our community and city, and not a topic of division, arguments and contempt.