The Boys and Girls Club of Warwick were one of two clubs in the state to celebrate the launch of a new technology-filled center known as an “Innovation Lab,” made possible due to a $25,000 grant award from the James M. Cox Foundation of Cox Communications. East Providence’s club on Williams Avenue received the other award.
The impressive array of technology included two 3D printers, an Xbox One gaming console, 10 Think Pad touch screen laptops, sets that provide all the materials and instructions to build a rudimentary computer, a learn to code kit and three Oculus virtual reality headsets.
Cox administrators explained Wednesday how the Innovation Labs can level the playing field in a society where, increasingly, skills with modern technology play a more and more integral role in the success of students – especially if it can be accessed during younger stages of development.
“Innovation Labs are places where you have access to the internet, you can learn about robotics, you have 3D printing and you can enhance STEM skills,” said Jay Allbaugh, senior vice president and region manager for Cox Communications. “Importantly, these labs are intended hopefully to bridge the digital divide where some folks may not have a computer or internet access at home.”
The Innovation Lab will be available to all club members when the after-school program kicks back into gear this fall. But a group of kids were on site during Wednesday’s announcement to help demonstrate to the adults in the room how they work. They enjoyed playing Minecraft and showing off how the VR headsets worked, while others played with apps and stylus pens on the new touch screen laptops.
“I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m an old guy so this is like space age to me,” said Warwick Rep. David Bennett. “It’s great that they’re encouraging what we call peer education to get older students to help younger students and this will be a great gateway to doing this and getting kids to work together and get involved.”
Allbaugh mentioned that the partnership between Cox and the Boys and Girls Club has been in place for decades, which has resulted in opportunities such as the Innovation Labs initiative.
“We’re a technology company and we’re about making connections and bringing people together,” he said. “We also want to empower the next generation of innovation. The way I see it, the Boys and Girls Clubs are connectors and innovators because what we see here is compelling these young folks to the best of their capabilities to become good future citizens of our communities.”
Warwick Boys and Girls Club executive director Lara D’Antuono mentioned how the technology will help enhance existing programs at the club, such as the entrepreneurial program that tasks kids with designing a product and selling it. With computer-aided design programs on the new laptops and the 3D printers, it will bring new depth and excitement to the program.
“The limitless talent that you put at our disposal is priceless, and we are so grateful for that and I’m so glad this has continued all those years,” she said of the partnership with Cox. “I think we’re in a better place and I think our kids are in a better place because of that partnership.”