Focusing on Youth

The first full week of May was a busy one for Boundless Connections.

Christina Lopez, Tony Evans and Ryan Wilcox at the Rotary Club’s meeting.

We kicked off the week with lunch and a presentation to the Olean Rotary Club. With May designated as the international club’s “Youth Service Month,” local Rotarian, Cattaraugus County Youth Bureau director, and friend of Boundless Connections, Tony Evans asked us to share with members how we’re serving young people in the Olean area.

Christina spoke to the group about our mission to help people “make friends with technology” and how we’re creating a pipeline for people of all ages to engage and solve local problems with tech. The bulk of our programming is youth-centered – including our TECH Unleashed and TECH Launch programs for youth 13-17 and 17-25, respectively.

Through these programs, we’re helping local kids realize their potential and how they can use technology to help our community. Participants have used the skills they’ve developed in computer, mobile and audio/visual technology to develop web sites for local nonprofits, record a music video for a local musician and develop a poverty simulator for the United Way. This year’s group is focusing on 3D printing and coding applications for manufacturing technology.

Again, special thanks to the Rotarians for hosting us!

Thursday we entertained more than 20 Allegany-Limestone Central School 8th graders. The group enjoyed some Tasta pizza as they toured our tech center, playing with our BEAM interactive floor games, checking out the 3D printers and learning more about our programs.

Some of the students expressed sincere interest in audio/visual tech, coding and 3D printing – and they’re the perfect age for our TECH Unleashed program, so we hope to see them this summer at camp!

We ended the week with Dream It. Do It. Western New York’s Manufacturing and STEM Fair at Portville Central School on Friday. Over 1,000 area students streamed through the school’s gym to learn more about local STEM-based employers and organizations.

A few students were already familiar with us, but my favorites were the newbies. They’d come dutifully to our booth and ask, “What do you manufacture?” To which I’d reply, “Nothing.” And when I explained we’re a hands-on tech center where they can come to explore and learn about anything they want, it was fun watching them embrace the concept, nod their heads and emit a little, “Cool.” In teen-speak, that’s quite an endorsement!

We brought some toys with us, including two MakerBot 3D printers, and while we weren’t the only booth showing off 3D printers, I think ours was the only one letting students remove fresh prints from the machines, which definitely won us some fans.

However, I think our Cod-a-pillar stole the show. A Fisher-Price toy aimed at teaching preschoolers the gist of coding, it was a real hit as students tested their skills programming it to follow a path we taped on the floor.

I really enjoyed watching the students work together, through trial and error, and to see them enthusiastically tackle something so seemingly simple. They were just as excited to fix their coding errors as they were in celebrating successfully completing the track. To quote Arthur Ashe, “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”

Friday’s outcome was definitely a success. Congratulations, DIDI, on another great fair, and thanks for including Boundless Connections!

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