By converting Rec Centers into Tech Centers, we create community spaces that prepare the youth of today for the careers of tomorrow.
You Can’t Buy a Makerspace, You Have to Make a Makerspace
Welcome to the Digital Harbor Foundation Blueprint website. Our goal is to help cities all over the country turn their underutilized spaces into community centers for exploration, innovation, entrepeneurship, and preparation for today’s fast-paced technology careers.
You can use this site to figure out what tools, equipment, and furniture you might buy or build to create a youth tech center in your community. However, simply purchasing a bunch of materials and tools does not alone make a makerspace. To make a makerspace you also have to enable an environment where hands-on, creative learning can take place, and where youth feel empowered to take control of their own learning and progress. Add technical skills and career growth opportunities to the mix and you have a Tech Center.
The Digital Harbor Foundation can help you lay the groundwork for creating a hands-on makerspace or tech center right now, even if you don’t yet have a formal physical location for your learning space. The sample projects on this site can be used as activities or events that help get youth started “making” right away. In addition, we offer workshop training to educators that want to learn more about making, 3D printing, and electronics.
We Don’t Know the Careers of the Future
Kids starting school this year will graduate in 2027. Can you imagine what 2027 will be like? It is impossible for us to know what careers might exist that far in the future. Even current high school students face a rapidly changing techology landscape as they look toward finding their first jobs in the next few years.
How do we prepare youth for careers that don’t yet exist? By teaching them how to learn and to love learning. By creating accessible community environments where youth can be valued and develop self-worth based on their skills and learning. If we can equip youth with these critical skills and mindsets, then they will be prepared for whatever the future holds.
Moving from Rec Centers to Tech Centers
Community Rec Centers were created and experienced great support throughout the past century, which in the context of the industrial era actually makes a lot of sense. Factories needed lots of physically fit, able-bodied folks to be able to work in them, and Rec Centers helped with that. These factories also needed extended daycare options for second-shift workers; again, a great fit. Additionally, the role of Rec Centers as physical locations for community gatherings galvanized the political will to support them. However, as factories have shut down, closed their doors, and auctioned off their equipment, Rec Centers have failed to re-imagine themselves, and are being shuttered all across this country as government budgets are being cut.
At the same time, the recent release of internal demographic information by numerous tech companies underscores the massive and systemic disparities that exist in this country. The data makes painfully clear that all populations do not have equal access to opportunities, and therefore do not have equal technical skill attainment. For example, at companies like Facebook and Google, African-Americans make up just 2% of the total company workforce. At the same time, tens of thousands of tech-sector jobs lie vacant in Baltimore alone, simply because there are not enough local tech professionals to fill them; tech companies are starving for individuals with the appropriate skills and mindsets. Our nation’s current system of public schools and Rec Centers is failing to prepare our youth for the needs of today’s rapidly-changing and increasingly more tech-focused economy.
If you re-image a Rec Center as a Tech Center, however, the equation suddenly changes. It goes from being an expense item on a budget to being an investment. In this new vision, a Tech Center is directly linked to the future health of a city’s future workforce, and becomes an economic imperative as a key component in a robust pipeline for high-growth sector jobs. At the Digital Harbor Foundation Tech Center, we offer camps and programs that give local Baltimore youth the opportunity to engage in new technologies such as 3D printing and programmable electronics. We also have a semester-long afterschool program that helps youth discover passions that they may not have otherwise developed, and helps them build computer skills and technology experience that prepares them for successful careers after graduation.
For a more in-depth discussion of these issues, watch the video presentation below from Andrew Coy, the Executive Director of the Digital Harbor Foundation.