The world is their computer lab.
A husband-and-wife team from Sunset Park has booted up a roaming educational program called Sunset Spark that teaches elementary and middle schoolers about coding, three-dimensional printing, and more. They say they started the project because they saw an important niche untapped by computer classes in public schools.
“We thought there was a need that wasn’t being filled,” said Gaelen Hadlett, a software engineer who lives in Sunset Park with his wife Yadira. “We want to offer a more well-rounded approach to technology: using it more creatively.”
The duo wants to focus on helping out families that wouldn’t otherwise encounter the technology and skills, he said.
They have already run classes that focus on programming, robotics, brain waves, and soft circuitry — which involves sewing with electrically conductive materials. The goal of the seminars is to make all the gadgetry accessible.
“We want to de-mystify these things,” Yadira Hadlett said. “And to show that you don’t need access to a lab to learn about them.”
The couple has experience running after-school programs and has made a habit of conducting workshops in unorthodox places, including Green-Wood Cemetery. There the Hadletts showed kids the graves of Brooklyn inventors past and got the youngsters primed to learn about modern applications of long-ago machines.
In one such lesson, the class visited the final resting place of members of the Tiffany family, of Tiffany glass fame, before a demonstration on modern jewelry design techniques using a three-dimensional printer.
Another class held in the courtyard of Industry City taught teens about how the brain functions and how software can be used to map neurological activity. The students then wrote code to run an experiment measuring how the brain responds to sound.
The classes don’t sound quite so ambitious once you take into account the two tutors’ resumes. In addition to being a programmer, Gaelen is studying to get a master’s degree in neuroscience, and Yadira used to run an after-school program at PS 24 in Sunset Park.
But with the program fully booted, the energetic social entrepreneurs aren’t resting on their laptops. Next on their to-do list is launching a hacker center in their home neighborhood.
The so-called “hackerspace” will open inside Saint Agatha’s, a Catholic school on 48th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues, as a hub for kids from that school and elsewhere. The space will feature a three-dimensional printer, soldering irons, and circuit boards, among other tools, Galeane said. The goal is less perfect proficiency than a 21st-century sort of creativity, he said.
“We want it to be like a new-wave art room,” he said.
A new MakerBot tool lets users design their own cellphone case to be three-dimensionally printed. The program prints custom or pre-made designs to the backside of the phone. Folks with their own MakerBot printer can print the patterns at home. Other customization junkies looking to trick out their smartphones will have to schlep across the East River to the MakerBot store. The only hitch in the case printing process is that the cases don’t wrap around, so users have to buy a rubber pad to protect the phone’s edges.
The Industry City Distillery has put out some seriously strong booze. The 95.6-percent-alcohol Technical Reserve is not for drinking straight — so the company says, anyway — but is rather intended to be used for bitters and tinctures that can be added to craft cocktails. The distiller claims the spirit has an absolutely neutral taste. Pretty neat.
The Beat Festival runs Downtown from Sept. 11–20, featuring a variety of arts events at different venues. One tech-focused happening is an immersive, sci-fi walking tour through the Navy Yard called Private (i). The jaunt is supposed to transform the creative hub into a world of hyper-surveillance in a time where privacy no longer exists. Now that I’m mentioning it, that sounds a lot like the present.
Also on tap is an Improv Everywhere routine where participants are supposed to download an audio file, put on some headphones, and play the file back at a designated time. That’s all we’re getting out of them for now.
Legendary rap magazine The Source is holding The Source 360 Expo, a Downtown festival that is supposed to explore hip hop’s contributions to media and culture through performances, film screenings, and panel discussions. It is set to run in various venues from Sept. 17-19 and include a discussion on bloggers, pop culture, and revenue and another on community, police, and technology.