By Malyk Johnson – 12th Grade, Allderdice High School
As I arrived at the Tech Warriors Training at the Neighborhood Learning Alliance on June 30th, I was ushered downstairs into a room crowded with tables, chairs, cleaning supplies, and… robots. I was introduced to the students who were using sensors, writing out programming code on a white board, and performing activities on their laptops.
Tech Warriors Training is a program in which African American high school students are hired and taught programming and robotics skills which they teach to elementary students. In the small basement of The Neighborhood Learning Alliance in Garfield, a group of about ten kids ranging from ages 14 to 18 learn programming skills and 3D printing skills from Tyler Vojacek-Sobczak (or Mr. Ty), a student at Point Park University, and Isaac Rudich, a student at Carnegie Mellon University . Mr. Ty teaches programming while Isaac teaches 3D printing. After learning from Mr. Ty and Isaac, the Tech Warriors were split into groups and headed off to the elementary schools where they were teaching for the day
Tech Warriors started in the fall of 2014 after The Neighborhood Learning Alliance received grants from Google and Carnegie Mellon and has served six schools in the past two semesters. The schools served include Woolslair and Arsenal Elementary Schools at the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation Activity Center, as well as Concord Elementary and Morrow Elementary.
Mr. Ty has been with Tech Warriors for about six months. Isaac, who is a theater and business student at Carnegie Mellon University, has been with Tech Warriors for the summer. When I asked Mr. Ty about how he’d like to see the program expand in the future, he responded that he wants the program to not focus only on programming and include more 3D printing. The ideal situation is that elementary students get one-on-one time with a Tech Warrior instead of a more traditional classroom environment. When asked why teach younger students and not just teach high school students, he responded, “The goal is to introduce younger kids to robotics and programming alongside peers and role model figures in order to create a positive environment early on instead of a confused or frustrating environment.”
Issac is one part of that goal. He found out about Tech Warriors through Carnegie Mellon’s Tartan Track job search service. He already used 3D printing in school and applies that knowledge to teach the Tech Warriors how to use 3D printing. When asked about 3D printing, he responded, “It’s one of those things that looks harder than it is. Those who catch on, catch on really fast.” When asked about what he wanted to see in the future, he replied, “More lead in time,” referencing the one week he had to introduce the Tech Warriors to the 3D printing before going to the schools to teach the younger kids.
Tech Warriors will continue to meet Monday through Friday throughout the summer and will continue during the school year.