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URBAN Txt Students Using App Inventor

The URBAN TxT (urban Teens eXploring Technology) program seeks inner-city south L.A. students from 7th to 11th grade with an interest in technology and exploring more about. Many of these kids have parents who didn't attend college or even graduate high school. The URBAN TxT program has been incredibly successful. Each of the 15-week summer terms start with an intensive course in team and leadership building.

“What I’ve found so fascinating is that the tech is just a tool to turn our teens into the leaders we know they can be,” Juan Vasquez, technology mentor at URBAN Txt, says. “It’s not really about the tech. It’s about how we get these kids to understand that they can go out and eat up this world … how we can tell kids ‘you’re meant to succeed … you’re built to succeed.’”

After these kids are taught how to be leaders and work on a team, they are introduced to HTML, CSS, and Javascript using a variety of online courseware. Once they are equipped with the foundational skills, they target problems in their communities that they're passionate about solving. After identifying these problems, the students are provided with mentors and volunteers whose goal is to help them explore different technologies that can be used to create the solution.

Some of the final projects students have created are: L.A. Volunteers, a sort of for teens — who need volunteering hours for high school graduation credits — and local charities and nonprofits, who need help and SAT Fighter (which students built using MIT App Inventor), a ninja-fighting game that helps teens prepare for their SAT tests.

Students of the program present their projects to everyone participating in a final demo day where they can win up to $3000 in prizes.

“Just seeing the hunger he has to compete in the world … that’s what I want every kid to have,” Vasquez says.

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