More than 100 middle- and high school kids gathered in a Florida Memorial University conference room on Saturday to pitch ideas for new computer apps.
Many of the kids might never have thought of creating their own software, but they were participating in a South Florida Youth Summit’s tech workshop, which encouraged them to think big.
The South Florida Youth Summit hosted the tech workshop and a town hall meeting at FMU’s campus in Miami Gardens on Friday and Saturday.
One of the organizers of the two day event, state Rep. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat from West Park, said the goal of the events was to get student involved in the technology boom happening in America.
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“We picked technology because I feel it’s a conversation that’s happening, but it’s not being acted on especially in our community,” Jones said. “We own nothing in technology, but yet and still our population of people, African Americans, are the larger proponent of it. So we want to show students that not only can they invest in it, but everything you do has something to do with STEM.”
STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Friday evening, more than 500 students, parents and community members attended the town hall meeting, which encouraged students to use and think about technology differently. The town hall meeting was hosted by Jeff Johnson, a journalist, national commentator.
“We got dumb kids with smart phones,” Johnson said during his speech, and received applause and laughs from the crowd. “I can get up here and say a bunch of stuff to you about starting businesses, ... but if you aren’t using the technology you have in your hand effectively, how are you going to do more?”
This is the summit’s second year hosting the town hall, but the workshops are new this year. The summit is a program under LEAD Nation, a non-profit after school program that teaches students leadership through STEM subjects. LEAD is an acronym for Leaders by Empowerment, Activists by Development.
The young leaders attended the tech workshops at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Students were provided laptops and worked in small groups to come up with app ideas, and the group with the highest score would receive money to further their business concept.
Students presented a 60 second pitch about their technology-based businesses and it’s functions.
Code Fever, J Nick Management and other businesses and groups volunteered to work with the students to help them develop their ideas.
Kerrington Freeman, a 13-year-old student at Miami Lakes Middle School, said the town hall meeting sparked her interest more in science and technology.
“I learned a little bit about coding, and I had no idea what that was until yesterday. I would like to learn more about coding,” she said.
During the tech workshop, she and a group of three young ladies worked on an app idea called the ‘Eye Brow Selfie’ which would allow users to alter their eyebrows and change the background in their pictures.
She said she enjoyed the event and would encourage other students to attend.
“They try to prepare you for your future and they prepare you for your career and I like that,” said Freeman, who dreams of becoming a doctor.
Zion Moss, 13, said the two day event showed him that he’s not too young to began chasing his dream.
“They’ve given us tools for the future, and even starting at young ages they are teaching us about coding and how to be leaders and entrepreneurs,” he said.
The eighth-grader, who attends MAST Academy, hopes to become an aerospace engineer and plans to work for NASA.
“I really enjoy that they are doing this and that it’s free,” he said. “They’ve taught us to never be afraid to do anything.”