Harboring Baltimore’s youth: Digital Harbor Foundation

Left to Right: ______, Darius, Andrew Coy, ______

Left to Right: Amber Grimes, Darius, Andrew Coy and Meg Lynch holding donated filament from MatterHackers. Photo courtesy of DHF.

Darius, 17, has built four 3-D printers, even teaching several Perry Hall High School seniors how to build their own Printrbot, Jr. in less than 8 hours.

Tony, 15, and Ben, 17, have written, produced and edited several podcast episodes centered around video game performance and design.

Sierra, 14,  has an extensive photography portfolio and has begun experimenting with 3-D printing.

Bella, 11,  just designed her second mobile app video game entitled, Monkey Mayhem.

When chatting with all five of these gifted youngsters at the Digital Harbor Tech Center last Monday evening, it became immediately clear why Digital Harbor Foundation Executive Director, Andrew Coy and the rest of his staff are succeeding: they’ve found a way to reach kids with divergent interests by forming a productive educational environment with the student’s personal goals and interests as the focus.

Just south of the inner harbor on Light St. in Federal Hill sits the old South Baltimore Recreation Center. Now the home to DHF, the Digital Harbor Tech Center is an open source hyperlink heaven for any youngster looking for the perfect tech escape. Whether it’s coding, web design, podcasting, video game development, app development or 3-D printing, DHF is a tech-focused education non-profit focused on youth interested in the ever-evolving world of technology.

DHF Family Make Night

Coy was a history and technology teacher at Digital Harbor High School, just a few blocks from the tech center. He noticed a large number of students who had interests in technology outside the regular curriculum of the public school system and needed a safe haven to help foster their love of technology – a pathway that could spark their interest in specific tech career, which is a goal of the DHF.

With weekly panelists that include cutting edge industry folks like Sean Wise (president of RePliForm), Matt Barinholz (founder of FutureMakers), and Marty McGuire (creator of Thingiverse.com), the DHF provides relevant real-life practice for the children’s experimental tech work. It’s a “Hey, you know you can do all this fun stuff in the real world and get paid real money!” kind of moment for these gifted kids.

The Deutsch Foundation is a proud supporter of the Digital Harbor Foundation and the important impact it’s having on Baltimore’s youth.

We strive to create a learning environment of ‘structured autonomy’ where all the work is youth-directed,” said Coy. “We allow them to decide what they want to do — our job is to inspire and support. The only real rule is that they must be productively making something. Ultimately, it’s about helping youth get to where they want to go (both on a specific project and in life in general)– all while enjoying the process. In other words: learning how to learn and learning to love learning.”

-TD

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