Affordable Tech Camp Teaches Bed-Stuy Kids About Social Issues

By Paul DeBenedetto on July 11, 2013 8:06am 

Slideshow
 At the DIVAS for Social Justice STEAM Camp, kids make robots and think about their neighborhood.
Alydia Wells, left, and Chloe Delabanque work on a science experiment.
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BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A new Brooklyn technology camp is teaching kids how to combat social issues while also showing them how to build robots.

The DIVAS for Social Justice STEAM Camp helps teach kids science, technology, engineering, arts and math, in a setting designed to help kids think about their neighborhood, and at a price range that the organizers say is more affordable to Bed-Stuy families.

The intensive program runs nine hours a day — 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. — and encourages kids to learn digital media, robotics, animation and other skills over a three-week period from July 1-23, from a Pace University robotics professor, Andrea Taylor.

All the work the kids do throughout the three weeks focuses on social issues in Bed-Stuy, said DIVAS co-founder Clarisa James.

"It's intensive," James said. "And everything becomes progressively harder, because they're working on projects towards social change in the neighborhood."

For their project, the kids are studying healthy living in Bed-Stuy. They surveyed four blocks of DeKalb Avenue to see what prepared foods are available to the community for parents that don't have time to cook.

"What they found in looking at the four block radius was just fast-food options, like Chinese food and pizza places," James said.

The kids also used Little Bits, a simplified robotics tool, to create golf and basketball playing robots to help people stay active, James said, and at the end of the camp, they'll interview the director of Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation's Food and Fitness Partnership, Dara Cooper.

Camp trips find the kids in the film and media lab at Hunter College, James' alma mater, every Thursday. And on Wednesday, the kids took a trip to SONY Wonder Technology Lab for some hands-on exhibits.

While some science camps in the city can run upwards of $500 a week, DIVAS — which stands for digital, interactive, visual arts, sciences — capped the price of the program at $375, in order to expose more kids in the community to STEAM programming, organizers said.

And by having them focus on social issues, James said, the kids will hopefully continue to think more about improving their own community.

"We're having them work on projects that are solution-based to the problems the community is facing," James said. "Having them work on projects so they feel they can effect change in the future."

The camp will have an awards event at the Macon Library on July 26, 4-6 p.m., where the kids' projects will be on display. The ceremony is open to the community.

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