By Tech Kids Unlimited @TechKidsU | December 16, 2019
Tech Kids Unlimited (TKU) is an NYC-based not-for-profit education organization that teaches computational thinking and technology to students aged 7-21 who learn differently. TKU’s mission is to open up the field of technology to students with disabilities and to help them become the techies of tomorrow. Through emphasizing work-based learning and social and emotional learning, TKU’s programs empower and inspire the next generation of digital natives to learn, create, develop and share the tools of technology and computer science thinking in a supportive and individualized environment.
On Sunday, December 8, 2019, approximately 70 students and 15 parents gathered for a day of computer science learning hosted by Tech Kids Unlimited and sponsored by Infosys Foundation USA. Families were welcomed at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, where TKU is housed through a partnership with the NYU Ability Project. In keeping with the CS4All initiative, this event aimed to create opportunities for every type of learner to engage with computer science learning. At TKU, the ‘for all’ is taken deeply to heart to foster an inclusive space where students can feel successful and celebrated. Every classroom at TKU is always staffed with a master tech teacher, a social worker, and a team of tech counselors to ensure a successful learning environment.
Welcome & Inspiration
To kick off the day, Infosys Foundation USA Executive Director Katherine Maloney warmly welcomed our participants with an encouraging message about the importance of computational thinking. Guest Lecturer Meg Ray, a computer science educator and author of “Code This Game,” led a fun computer science debugging activity for everyone.
Students and parents engaged in a variety of activities across five classrooms and there was an emphasis on open-source and accessible software. In youth classrooms, students used Scratch, block coding software designed for learners new to coding languages, to modify multi-level games. Students learned about how designers can change the way a game looks and functions, and practiced re-designing their sprites, backgrounds, and even game rules!
Students in tween and teen classroom learned Python Trinket to design digital winter greetings using code. Line-by-line, students made choices about the color, shape, and size of the elements in their card by playing around with variables in the code.
In the teen and young adult classroom, students used Processing, an open-source software sketchbook, to create digital winter greetings using code. Students working on similar designs were grouped to encourage peer-to-peer sharing and troubleshooting. Students used creative problem solving to figure out how to customize their designs using hex codes and some mathematical calculations.
A classroom full of parents were excited to get a taste of what their students usually experience in TKU’s monthly twice a month tech workshops. Parents used Pixlr, a free, online alternative to Adobe Photoshop to create digital winter-themed greeting cards. After prototyping their designs, they learned about composition, typography, and color theory before diving into creation. When parents needed support, their tech counselors were TKU Creative Tech Interns and Alumni!
After all of the awesome digital projects were presented and celebrated, students were gifted a swag bag on their way out. The swag bag included an Infosys Foundation USA x TKU black baseball cap and a super fun and accessible book called Code This Game about learning Python.
Events like TKU Codes enable TKU to expand outreach to new families and provide unique learning opportunities to students and parents. Huge thanks to Infosys Foundation USA for believing in TKU students! Disability is diversity!