By Janet Noe,  cross-posted from Lawrence Hall of Science

Teens from the TechHive at the Lawrence Hall of Science will share projects that showcase their talents in film editing, 3-D modeling, and game design on Saturday, January 11, 2014, from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Lawrence Hall of Science.

“Teen interns explore their interests in various projects at the TechHive Studio,” said AJ Almaguer, one of the leaders of the program. “When they then share their projects with others, it further empowers them. They get to tell visitors ‘I built that,’ ‘I am a scientist,’ or ‘I am an engineer.’”

TechHive is a hands-on engineering design program that supports teen interns in the San Francisco Bay Area. Through partnership with engineering college students at UC Berkeley, they develop youth-inspired engineering challenges and technology projects for use at the Lawrence Hall of Science in public programs and classes, as well as in neighboring communities. TechHive builds on the popular “Make” and “Do-It-Yourself” movements, but adds a strong connection between these activities, computer programming, engineering, and the innovation process.

“All the experiences I have had in TechHive are really going to shape me into the person I want to be,” said Sawara, one of the teens in the program. She adds, “I’ve learned a lot of hands-on skills here, and gained confidence.”

The TechHive program endeavors not only to inspire curiosity and teach innovation, but also to foster positive attitudes toward STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers and technology-related work. TechHive includes participation and mentorship from a group of UC students who organized and continue to operate the Berkeley Engineers and Mentors (BEAM). Leading the program are TechHive staffers AJ Almaguer and Matt Chilbert, along with Program Director Sherry Hsi. Almaguer received his B.S. in mechanical engineering/materials science and engineering from UC Berkeley in 2010. His infectious enthusiasm for engineering propels the TechHive teens through rapid prototyping, enabling them to explore a wide variety of projects that relate to their unique interests. Chilbert, an experienced educator and media expert, helps the teens incorporate animation, digital video, and imagination into their projects.

TechHive creations such as the bike simulator, where a bike can be pedaled “virtually” through a miniature model of the neighborhood around Lake Merritt in Oakland; a cardboard skeeball machine; and the giant 5-foot-tall game of Operation, which features an electrocardiogram to help guide game play, are examples of the types of TechHive projects created through Almaguer’s and Chilbert’s mentorship.

“Teens are hungry for places to be creative in an environment that lets them explore new ideas, make prototypes, and apply knowledge to complex design problems using a range of technologies,” said Program Director Hsi. “We’re excited about continuing to offer these kinds of connected learning opportunities.” Along with demonstrating their projects at the Lawrence Hall of Science, the TechHive teens will be sharing their designs at the 2014 Maker Faire.

“The TechHive teens help to develop challenges for our Design Quest exhibit and our Ingenuity Lab at the Hall,” said Monika Mayer, Director of the Hall’s Ingenuity Programs. “It’s great to see how their projects inspire the younger kids and help them get interested in science and engineering.”

The TechHive program is funded, in part, by Oracle, whose grants to the Lawrence Hall of Science over the past five years have provided significant support for the Hall’s work to increase science-learning opportunities in out-of-school settings.

“Oracle is delighted to sponsor TechHive,” said Colleen Cassity, Executive Director of Oracle Giving & Volunteers and the Oracle Education Foundation. “It’s a truly multidisciplinary program that gives students the opportunity to work across various Hall departments, creating exhibits and other materials. It exposes them to a variety of possible STEM careers, which is fantastic. We’re also thrilled that more than half of the current participants are young women — an underrepresented population in STEM careers. We hope to see that change in coming years. Programs like TechHive are a great way to foster gender equity. They’re also a great way to ignite and deepen all students’ interest in these powerful pathways.”

Oracle, along with Motorola Solutions Foundation, has helped to fund the TechHive program this year. They join with several other funders in supporting the Hall’s work to develop authentic learning experiences that give young people a chance to step into the shoes of actual scientists and engineers.

The Lawrence Hall of Science TechHive projects are documented through a Tumblr blog and also through videos on the Lawrence Hall of Science YouTube Channel.

The Lawrence Hall of Science Meet the Makers event also provides a good opportunity for teens who are interested in volunteering at the Hall, or in applying for a teen internship, to learn more about those programs. There will be lots of fun activities to do, including designing and building simple robotic bugs in the Hall’s Ingenuity Lab, or viewing the Back To The Moon For Good Planetarium show featuring lunar robot inventions that teams around the world are hoping to send to the moon. Admission to the Hall is $12.00 for adults, $9.00 for ages 7–18 and 62-plus, and $6.00 for children ages 3–6; children under 3 enter for free. Tickets to the Planetarium are an additional $4.00 per person.

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