Google Community Leaders Help Residents Plug in to Digital Austin

Beth PhillipsDigital Inclusion, UT Austin News

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About 20 children who live in apartments operated by the Housing Authority of the City of Austin recently received free refurbished computers donated by Austin Community College after dedicating 40 hours of their summer vacation to STEM education.

Three Google Community Leaders from the University of Texas Division of Diversity and Community Engagement attended the computer deployment to help residents assemble and become acclimated to their new machines. The Division of Diversity and Community Engagement works closely with Google to support the five-student team.

“I’m excited because this is my first time getting a computer,” said 8-year-old Anthony Martinez.

Anthony and his 10-year-old brother Abraham are both third graders at Jaime D. Padron Elementary School in north Austin. The boys were among 125 families who participated in an innovative STEM pilot program made possible by a grant from the Central Texas Summer STEM Funding Collaborative in partnership with Skillpoint Alliance.

STEM educators delivered four computer science camps – with an emphasis on coding, tinkering and using micro-controller boards – as well as four camps focused on designing, building and racing a solar racecar to promote environmental science, civil engineering, computer design and energy science.

Anthony and Abraham spent their summer taking quizzes on the computer, learning how to use Google Chrome and playing at the park. Anthony, whose favorite school subject is math, said his favorite part of the summer learning camp was creating and customizing a digital cat using computer code. He said he’s looking forward to using the concepts he learned at camp to pursue his dream of someday working in the math or science field.

Google Community Leader Reginald Smith said he applied to participate in the competitive leadership program because he enjoys helping public housing residents like Anthony use computers to improve their quality of life. Smith is junior in the University of Texas School of Social Work.

“Everyone wants to be a Google Community Leader because we want to come out into the community and help people get wired and get plugged in and fully participate in digital Austin,” Smith said. “I think it’s a great program, I think it’s a great resource for the community, and I hope that as many people can take advantage of the program do take advantage of it.”