Students share human-centered designs at Emoti-Con technology showcase

[Combing human-centered design with computational thinking makes tremendous sense. I work with the South Fayette SD in the Pittsburgh area, a member of the League of Innovative Schools. Like the students in this Hechinger Report, students at South Fayette solve real-world problems starting with empathy, testing, iterating, prototyping, and developing a solution.]

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Ideas — and beach balls — were flying as students at the New York Emoti-Con event kicked off the day with an exercise in low-tech problem solving: use beach balls, inner tubes and foam pool noodles to design a simple game. Keynote speaker and game designer Ramsey Nasser instructed them. Photo: Jamie Martines

Austin Carvey grew up in Washington Heights, a largely Hispanic neighborhood in northern Manhattan, where he watched his neighbors struggle to advocate for themselves because they could not speak English. Now, he’s urging his peers to join him in using technology to generate solutions to problems in their communities.

Carvey is a senior at the High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College and the co-founder of the organization Young Hackers, which seeks to draw more minority and low-income kids into the hacker community in New York City. He spent much of his time during the eighth annual Emoti-Con showcase earlier this month fielding questions from his younger peers about the ethical implications of advanced technology and the applications of computer science training in the real world.

“It exposes students to different applications of technology,” he said of the conference. “When you start, it’s really just websites and web apps, maybe some robot stuff. But knowing you can really do anything with technology, it really opens up your mind and makes you more creative.”

Emoti-Con brings New York City students together to present their technology projects and network with each other. It combines aspects of high-tech coding and engineering with an emphasis on human-centered design and problem-solving. Projects on display at the event, held in New York’s main public library, included a robot built in the back of a Spanish classroom at Baruch College Campus High School designed to provide an energy-efficient way to clean subway tracks, and a radio podcast produced by middle school students at The School for Human Rights in Brooklyn examining racism in their community. The podcast, which unlike many of the other projects focused on using technology for storytelling, was awarded one of the top prizes for social impact.

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