Static cling! Kids try to make cellphone charging T-shirts

Static cling! Kids try to make cellphone charging T-shirts
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

These Flatbush middle schoolers are stitching together new ideas about technology.

A tech-centric after-school program at the Science, Technology, and Research School in the Erasmus campus on Flatbush Avenue is teaching sixth and seventh graders how to make tech gadgets you can wear. One student said the class made him think differently about the digital world he grew up in.

“I like technology and working with computers, but this was different,” said Jaedan Alexander, a sixth grader at the school.

Pow! Caped Crusaders in Technology is one of many programs run by the Brooklyn College Community Partnership in the Erasmus campus, which contains five separate schools. The arts and technology group Eyebeam is helping to run the wearable technology class, and recently received a $10,000 grant from Time Warner Cable to help. The students’ idea for their first project: a shirt that can charge a cellphone.

“My friend needed to charge his phone but he didn’t have a charger or any place to charge it,” said sixth-grader Souleymane Bah. “We wanted to do something that would help.”

The students got to work designing and making T-shirts with built-in pockets that can hold a cellphone charger and a battery. Most of the kids said the low-tech part of wearable technology is actually the hardest part.

“I’ve never sewn before,” said Sirr White, another sixth-grader. “It was hard. It takes a long time.”

The director of the class said that kind of challenge is exactly what is good about it.

“I think programs like this are important because they encourage kids to push boundaries,” said Toni Pizza, a graduate of New York University’s Game Center.

Brooklyn College Community Partnership’s site director said she tries to make sure the kids are given as many different experiences as possible, noting that the group offers theater, art, and fitness curriculums in some of its other programs.

“Students tend not to be exposed to some of these opportunities, especially if they’re living in certain neighborhoods,” said Bobbie Brown. “We want every kid to have every opportunity possible.”

The point of the wearable technology program is to get kids thinking about making things, Brown said.

“Once they see that it’s not that hard, they’ll say ‘I can do this,’ ” Brown explained. “Be more creative, take control. We’re really pushing that entrepreneurial spirit.”

After finishing their shirts, the students presented their work to the rest of their class and took questions about the potential product.

“Having conversations about their projects is also important,” Brown said.

In the coming weeks, the same sixth graders will work on ways to improve on their designs, and will get ready for another presentation.

“Now we want to upgrade them,” Alexander said. “I want to add some LED lights.”

Brown said innovative programs like Pow! should be more widely available to all students in the city, not just those from wealthier and whiter areas.

“These kids don’t need to go all the way to the Upper East Side for this exposure,” she said. “They can get it right here in Flatbush.”

Techno Files

Final Frontier Designs, the Navy Yard space suit manufacturer, has landed a new partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The unfunded collaboration is not quite as lucrative as a contract, but it will provide the company with technical assistance, advice, and other help from the nation’s space agency. The stated purpose of the collaboration is to foster advancement in the field of commercial space travel.

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The Chamber of Commerce has announced that it will be working with Google to help small businesses build a web presence. The internet behemoth is kicking in $25,000 for the initiative and will provide some technical expertise. The project is set to work in tandem with Chamber on the Go, an initiative launched last year that sends a consultant in a minivan to visit small businesspeople who do not have the time to come to visit the Chamber’s office. The Chamber’s street team will work with the businesses to get them using services such as Facebook and Yelp, and to make sure they are properly listed on Google Maps.

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Kickstarter’s annual report shows $529 million was pledged to Kickstarter projects by 3.3 million people in 2014. The online fund-raising website saw 22,252 successful campaigns, 4,000 of which were music-related. The report also shows that Wednesday is the most popular day for people to pledge.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperl‌man@c‌ngloc‌al.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.