Unfortunately, there is poor performance in tech innovation per capita for people growing up and living in economically disadvantaged urban settings. New Brunswick is no different. Currently roughly 97% of all public school students in New Brunswick receive free or reduced lunch. How do we improve the tech output of underperforming areas? Not by putting these students in remedial classes! Many coders didn’t learn their skills by taking classes, but are computer savvy because they had access to technology in their homes and youth environment that they were able to leverage into a strong career.
‘Bridging the Digital Divide’ partners with the Puerto Rican Action Board’s schools which educate more students than do New Brunswick Public Schools, to deliver opportunities to Middle-schoolers that promote empowerment through computers and technology. By providing access to staff from Waze Corporate, Stevens Institute of Technology, and Rutgers University, and technology like Waze Map Editor, SimCity 4, Civilization IV, Acid Pro, and Fruity Loops, the program allows young students in New Brunswick to grow up as digital natives, using technology to manifest whatever their creative desires point to, helping them be more employable, and giving them tools to take responsibility for their own community.
Simcity and Civilization help students learn about the economic, social, and cultural systems that underpin society, while providing a free flowing and non-linear world in which they can explore these ideas. Fruity Loops provides students the ability to easily combine preset sounds into beat loops that adhere to 4/4 and 2/4 time signatures, while Acid Pro provides the ability to combine beat loops and samples from popular media to remix users’ favorite songs. Waze lets students take responsibility for their own community by actively editing the Waze Map in conjunction with Waze corporate, and builds GIS skills, while creating employment pipelines.
NBOI has collected 15 computers to build this lab, and is currently working with PRAB and Google Education to structure programming. We also have secured staff from Waze, Google Education, Rutgers, and Stevens Institute of Technology to teach classes and administer the lab.
Takeaways for the community include regular programming for both education and entertainment, increased employability due to GIS skills, an employment pipeline via Waze’s senior management and their commitment to NBOI, and serious marketing potential for New Brunswick, as this is the first community in the world to create this type of partnership with Waze.