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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Computer Clubhouses get new technology

Kids check out virtual reality classes at the James Lee Community Center.
Kids from the Computer Clubhouse at the James Lee Community Center got to try out virtual reality glasses and other cool technology at an open house Nov. 13. All six of Fairfax County’s Computer Clubhouses will get the devices, thanks to a $15,000 donation AT&T.

AT&T presents $15,000 to Fairfax County. The group includes Fairfax County Board Chair Sharon Bulova and officials from AT&T, the Equal Footing Foundation, and the county's Department of Neighborhood and Community Services and the Office of Public and Private Partnerships.
Computer Clubhouses offer after-school computer instruction and other activities in lower-income areas where children are less likely to have access to computers at home. There are two in the Annandale/Mason area – at the Bailey’s Community Center in Bailey’s Crossroads and the Willston Multicultural Center in Seven Corners.

Devices made in a 3D printer.
The AT&T grant, presented to Fairfax County officials at the open house, will be used to provide six Oculus virtual reality devices, upgrades for the center’s 3D printers, and Leap Motion sensors that allow people to control the action on a computer screen with a wave of the hand.

Computer Clubhouse kids will use the 3D printers to make personalized devices for wounded military veterans and people with disabilities in assisted living.

Examples include devices that could help wounded warriors who lost an arm access the buttons on the side of a hospital bed or hold a cell phone or toothbrush, said Robert O’Quinn, technology program manager in Fairfax County’s Department of Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS).

Kids could also help disabled adults play wheelchair soccer by making a device to prevent the ball from getting stuck under a wheelchair, for example, and help blind people play bingo by making a special frame for a bingo card.

Computer Clubhouse kids at the James Lee Community Center.

“In today’s world, standard competency in technology has become absolutely essential,” said O’Quinn. “The concentration of high-tech jobs in Fairfax County alone is among the highest in the nation. The sooner our youth are exposed to emerging technologies, the better prepared they will be for the career opportunities of tomorrow.”

“Your creations will impact so many people,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova told the kids. “Dream big.”

Kids try a Leap Motion game controller.
NCS provides the facilities and programming for Computer Clubhouses. The Equal Footing Foundation, a branch of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, provides funding for students and staff to attend conferences and a teen summit with participants of the Computer Clubhouse Network, which consists of 100 clubhouses in 20 countries.

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