SoBROTec (2005-2008)

(NSF Funded ITEST Program Award Number: 05-25162)

One hundred and eighty high school students in the South Bronx area of New York City developed technological fluidity by exploring products of urban design that involve IT systems and networks such as transit systems, parks and recreation; exploring film and performance technology and music production and architectural modeling technology.

This program served 180 minority high school youth from the South Bronx in a project–based, design–centered program. The goals were to develop the participants’ technological fluidity within the context of the local urban environment and to broaden the entry points to IT–related careers for these minority and low-income participants through exposure to IT applications in professional and creative settings (not mutually exclusive). This three–year program consisted of a series of after school, semester–length modules and a summer program. Students met for at least two hours per day, three days per week for a total of 11 weeks per semester; summer programs ran for 20 hours per week during seven weeks; reaching a maximum of 230 contact hours per year.

The modules engaged students in three areas of technology: Information Technology in Urban Spaces, exploring products of urban design that involve IT systems and networks such as transit systems, parks and recreation and public service offerings as well as the cellular phone; Art and Entertainment Technology, film and performance technology and music production; and Architectural Modeling Technology, materials and building strategies and building your dream house.  The summer program offers three options that build on these modules: field trip series, community web–building projects, and internships.

Grant Activities

Spring 2007: Game Design and Development with Actionscript – Students developed their own games using Adobe Flash. Students gained abstract and critical thinking skills through programming in Actionscript.

Summer 2007: Students participated in internships, learned Digital Video at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, and spent time going on educational and relevant field trips.

Fall 2008: Students learned Google Sketchup, a 3D Modeling software, and they learned how to sketch and create their own 3D dream homes. Students also took a trip to Google, as well as New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.

Key Findings

SoBRO TEC was designed to bring hands-on project-based learning experiences that capitalize on participant’s interest in design and communication technologies and incorporate performance tasks for IT fluency. It provided structured interactions with IT professionals and graduate students to achieve technological fluidity and comfort with IT software, networks, and systems that make use of the surrounding urban environment.

The evaluation research conducted shows that students learned new skills and capabilities relevant to life in the 21st century, and that most participants achieve at the highest level of outcomes. The data also provide clear indications of a program that is successful according to multiple standards, exemplifying the possibilities of adapting complex curriculum and instruction to at- risk conditions to further key educational objectives.

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