Learning technological skills is difficult if you lack the technology. To help bridge the gap, the Idea Foundry is offering a new program at the Carnegie Library of Homestead.
The Pittsburgh nonprofit, which provides investment support for technology businesses, is partnering with the library for a series of free workshops aimed at students in middle and high schools.
Volunteer mentors conduct the after-school workshops to teach marketable skills in pursuits that appeal to young people, such as video game development, music composition and video production.
Through a $25,000 Heinz Endowments grant, the Idea Foundry and the library also are making technologically oriented software available to students.
"It's exciting that kids are going to learn about technology in a more thoughtful way," said Emily Salsberry, library services coordinator and youth services librarian at Homestead. "They're getting to create and learn from people in the field."
Workshops are offered four days a week, with hour-long sessions at 4:30 and 5:30 p.m.
Monday is "Movie Magic"; Tuesday, "Creative Arts Express"; Wednesday, "Get Your Game On"; and Thursday, "Don't Stop the Music."
"Kids with those interests can show up and rub shoulders with professionals who aren't that much older than they are," said Gary Gardiner, Idea Foundry manager of entertainment and education initiatives.
Volunteer mentors come from a variety of pursuits around the Pittsburgh area. The idea for the program at the library, known as the Teen Tech Zone, apparently was appealing.
"We got a much bigger response than we thought," Mr. Gardiner said. "We only needed about four to eight mentors, but we had 16 who volunteered."
Response also has been good among participants.
"Kids get to work on a project of their own choice," Ms. Salsberry said. "They have some tutorials and some direction, but it's really up to them."
The first round of workshops was held last week.
One participant made a song that was played at the library during a relatively quite period Friday, the day after the music workshop. "Everyone was really impressed," Ms. Salsberry said. "That was only after a few hours of working."
Available are professionalgrade computer programs that would be cost-prohibitive.
"There's not a substitute for it," Mr. Gardiner said. "Unless you have the opportunity where a lab will pay for the software, you can't get it at home."
Some examples include Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator for graphic arts, Dreamweaver for Web design, Mixcraft and Lightworks for audio-video, and Unity and GameSalad for programming.
Video tutorials and lessons to help students gain further knowledge are available at www.creativetechnologylabs.com.
"The kids are getting to realize that this could be a profession," Ms. Salsberry said. Some openings still are available for students in the 5:30 workshops, she said.
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Harry Funk, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.