Geek of the Week – Meagen Voss

Meagen Voss is Geek of the Week! Meagen has spent the past three years offering up her talents in both Kramden’s refurbishing warehouse and classroom. Thank you, Meagen, for your support and dedication to Kramden’s mission!

Favorite Geek Books: There are too many for me to list. So I’ll just note that the most recent nerdy adventure I enjoyed was The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal. It has everything: space, intrigue and heroic engineers!

Favorite Geek TV Show: The show that I rewatch over and over again is Avatar: The Last Airbender. Technology is very rudimentary in the Avatar world but the characters were still huge geeks because of how willing they were to improvise, experiment, and invent new things.

Favorite Geek Movie: Captain Marvel is my new favorite. Not only does it include space elements but it has so much 90s nostalgia, I had to haul out my pogs collection after watching it.

Favorite Website: To be honest, it’s Lynda.com (now LinkedIn Learning). Every time I need to learn a new skill or coding language, I usually start there.

What is the geekiest thing about you? I write my own fiction adventures and insert easter eggs for readers to find as they read to encourage them to hack the code. I’m planning to launch a self-published project some time next year.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Kramden?  Knowing that the work I’m doing will help give kids a shot at understanding technology even more deeply than I did at their age. I didn’t learn to code until I was in my 30s. I strongly believe that’s a skill kids should be learning in elementary school.

Best Kramden Moment?  Showing a student how to use the terminal in Endless and watching her squeal with delight. I think a new developer (or hacker???) was born that day.

When you are not volunteering at Kramden, what do you do?  For work, I spend my time translating geek speak to business speak as a marketing and technical writer for IBM. For fun, I crochet, write fiction, hike in the mountains and spend as much time as I can cuddling with my old cat Disco.

Online Workshop Update

Pre-pandemic, it would not be unheard of to spot one of Kramden Institute’s instructors loading up the minivan with laptops and an overhead projector screen for an offsite Basic Computer Class. At the same time, another may be seen prepping for summer camp, while another headed out to teach an afterschool technology workshop.

Like many of Kramden’s programs, class operations shifted in March to find ways to provide services safely. On March 26, Kramden launched its Online Workshops program and has since provided classes to over 760 total students. Children and adults ages 9 to 87 have participated in a wide range of STEM workshops covering topics ranging from Image Editing to a Build a PC Live Demo. To date, 75 workshop sessions have been held.

Technology Education Manager, Marshall Burkes has been thrilled with the great response to the online courses.

“Teaching online has been extremely rewarding as an instructor because we’re able to give people an outlet for their energy and curiosity. Both kids and adults are eager to learn and connect with people.” – Marshall Burkes, Technology Education Manager

As Lead Instructor Lile Stephens shared, “One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching online is seeing how excited students get when something clicks, as well as their eagerness to ‘share’ what they have been working on.”

Students of all ages have responded with positive feedback, noting similar enthusiasm to learn something new. “It was both educational and fun.” said Malachi, an elementary schooler.  Cole, a college student, wrote, “Great overview. it definitely gave me the confidence to open up [the app] and get started.” “Extremely informative. This instructor is outstanding. Wish I had more teachers like him when I was in school. Excellent teaching style!” said Patricia.

Kramden’s online workshops were made possible by COVID-relief grant funding from Strowd Roses Foundation, Best Buy, and Protolabs. The Education Team is continuously working to develop new online class and workshop offerings. Visit kramden.org/classes to check out the latest.

Supporter Spotlight: Breanna Jackson

 

In the months since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kramden Institute has seen a tremendous outpouring of support from our community. These donations have allowed Kramden to continue our work, connecting individuals to technology at a time when digital access is essential.

Earlier this week, we reached out to donor Breanna Jackson, who shared why she selected Kramden for her Facebook Birthday Fundraiser.  Breanna recently crowdfunded over $3,000 for Kramden and has been chosen for this month’s Supporter Spotlight!

 

 

How did you first hear about Kramden?

I heard about Kramden from working at Cisco Systems in RTP, NC. They would have a few volunteer events within the IT department with Kramden, and I heard good things about the organization.

Is there something about Kramden’s work/mission in particular that you connect with? (e.g. computers for kids, recycling old computers, etc.) 

The more advanced the world gets with the development of technology, the more vital it is for everyone to have access to reliable technology. I’ve heard of the “Homework Gap” where students in low-income areas were having a hard time keeping up with homework requirements if they didn’t have a computer/internet at home. That problem always troubled me since education should be an equalizer between all levels of income and background. I connected with Kramden’s mission because I was happy to see a local organization working hard to tackle that problem for NC students.

What made you decide to support Kramden through your Facebook Birthday Fundraiser?  

With COVID-19 coming to the United States in March and large global protests in response to the death of George Floyd and Breanna Taylor in the summer, my anxiety about the inequality in the world reached a very high level. There was already a gap in who had reliable access to technology, and part of that includes systematic racism in black/brown communities. Coronavirus is making that gap even wider, with so many students taking classes from home. I wanted to do something productive that would help reduce the gap, so I brainstormed ways that would have a large positive impact. During my research, I remembered Kramden and their mission fit my drive to provide more computers to students in need.

With my Birthday coming up, I thought it would be a great time to raise a large amount of money to help make a difference in my local area. It was also a milestone birthday for me. I turned 30, so I decided to do “$30 for 30” to help increase the amount even more.

Any fun / geeky facts about yourself you would like to share?  

I come from an engineering background and once attempted to make a wedding planning mobile app soon after I got married myself. I like attending innovation challenges and hackathons to channel my creativity towards a problem.

 

Thank you, Breanna, for supporting Kramden’s mission!

 

Coastal Credit Union Foundation Funds Devices for Area Students

As schools across the state shifted to online learning last month, many local community college students found themselves dealing with an unforeseen challenge: either find a way to obtain a computer to participate in their courses remotely or fail to complete their classes. Thanks to funding from Coastal Credit Union Foundation, Kramden was able to distribute 150 laptops to Wake Tech and 100 laptops Durham Tech Community College students earlier this month. Kramden’s production team is now working on prepping an additional 75 laptops to help benefit a total of 175 Durham Tech students.

Coastal Credit Union has been a long-time partner of Kramden Institute, providing employee volunteer service hours and program funding since 2014. To date, 350 families have participated in Kramden’s Coastal-sponsored digital and financial literacy courses.

Coastal volunteers disassemble computers in Kramden’s warehouse in 2019.

This week the foundation announced that it would provide a second round of funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the form of $140,000 in unrestricted grants for several area nonprofits. The latest package includes a $50,000 grant to Kramden to help further provide computers to public school and community college students across the Triangle. The grant will allow Kramden to distribute devices to an additional 500 local families in need.

Coastal funding will support Kramden in awarding over 750 computers to area students.

Thank you to Coastal for continuing to support Kramden in our mission to bridge the digital divide!

Community Members Help Distribute Computers to Families in Need

DeAngela and her mom were already enrolled in Kramden Institute’s computer classes when she received a message from a local Early Head Start employee. After learning news that Kramden was giving away free computers to students, she jumped into action.

“If you’ve ever met me in person, you know that I’m a giver at heart,” said DeAngela. (PTA Treasurer, Substitute Teacher, Member of the Elite Dollz of Faith: Divine Connections…we’d say she’s right!)

DeAngela picks up computers at Kramden to drop off with local families.

“I see what happens to families who lack resources. A lot of local families are lacking in resources that children need to be successful and have a well-balanced academic experience. Not to mention, access to family and friends through technology can make a big difference at this time.”

-DeAngela T.

Over the past several days, DeAngela and her mom shared the opportunitely widely across their networks. Together, they were able to identify nine families in need. In order to help the families who were without transportation, DeAngela came by and loaded up the equipment into her personal vehicle. DeAngela says that she her mother have been busy this week distributing the computers across the Triangle. They even received the help of stylists at her local salon who chipped in to provide gas money. It truly takes a village, and we are so grateful for all those who have come together to support our community during this time of need.

Computer Class Participants Receive Laptops at Oldham Towers

Class Participant Linda holds up her new laptop.

Before now, Phillip had to use his cellphone to send emails and access social services information online. Linda’s employer recently invited her to work from home, but she needed a computer to be able to do so. Today, Phillip, Linda, and nine other Durham Residents took home a laptop computer thanks to funding from Charter Communication’s Spectrum Digital Education grant.

Eleven students completed their fourth and final computer class at Oldham Towers this morning. They left with new computer knowledge and a tool to help them achieve their personal and professional goals. “Even though I knew the basics, this class still taught me a lot of things I hadn’t known before. I would definitely recommend it to anyone I know.” Linda said.

After completing eight hours of basic computer training, each student received a free laptop computer with one year of technical support. This class was the first of six Charter-sponsored courses to be offered in the Triangle this year.


Kramden Laptops Distributed in Zambia

Last fall, Kramden worked with the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club and sister club Rotary Club of Lusaka to distribute laptops in Zambia.

Over the years, the Rotary Club of Lusaka has helped the Chipapa Secondary School in Lusaka, Zambia by providing textbooks and solar lamps to aid the students’ studies. After learning from the Headmaster that the school had recently been supplied with electricity but were now in need of computers, the club reached out to their sister club in Chapel Hill to see if they could be of assistance.

With Kramden’s help, the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club was able to bring 35 refurbished laptops to Zambia in October. One laptop was donated to BirdWatch Zambia, a local environmentally-focused entity promoting environmental awareness in schools in Zambia, and the remaining 34 laptops were provided to students at the Chipapa Secondary School.

Kramden recently received an email from Lusaka, praising the “huge success of the project”.

“The teachers and students of Chipapa Secondary school are most grateful for the laptops. I sure you will agree that it is impossible to teach computer and IT studies, which is now in the National Curriculum, without having computers to use!”

PP Hebert – Rotary  Club of Lusaka

Kramden has partnered with the East Chapel Hill Rotary club in previous years to distribute computer equipment outside of the US — once in Nicaragua, and twice in Costa Rica.


Geek of the Year – Lou Voerman

Lou Voerman is Geek of the Year! Logging over 700 volunteer hours since first joining us in 2017, Lou brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the refurbishing warehouse, and classroom. Thank you, Lou, for your continued support and dedication to Kramden’s mission!

Favorite Geek Books: Dune by Frank Herbert

Favorite TV Show: A tie between “The Big Bang Theory” and “Doctor Who”

Favorite Geek Movie:  The original Star Wars (Episode IV)

Favorite Geek Website: Adafruit, Github

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Kramden?  I have been building personal computers for myself and my family since they first came out. I use to build one or two a year due to cost and the limited number of computers a family can use. At Kramden I can literally build hundreds in a year and see them used.

Best Kramden Moment?  It is difficult to pick out one moment. There have been so many, usually related to teaching something new to someone interested in technology. 

When you are not volunteering at Kramden, what do you do?  I spend a lot of time with my family (wife, two children and two grandsons) and our two golden retrievers. We walk, bike, kayak and attend many high school and middle school sporting events. I am also an amateur radio operator and a computer hobbyist. Lately I have been experimenting with small microprocessors (Arduino, Raspberry Pi etc.) and their application to amateur radio and general home use. My house is filled microprocessor controlled devices which I have built and programmed.

National Drone Safety Awareness Week – Drone Flight Camp Highlight

Since 2016, Kramden Institute has been offering Drone Flight Camp as part of our summer camp series. In this camp, students learn about the flight characteristics unique to drones, industry terminology, FAA guidelines for recreational use, emerging drone-related careers, and much more! During camp students get to practice flying a variety of small drones with different capabilities, perform simulated missions, and even program flight plans. As part of National Drone Safety Awareness Week, we thought we’d share some photos and feedback from some of our happy campers!

2019 Drone Flight Camp Participants
Programming a drone using Scratch.
Students pose as a giant drone.
Cheering on a programmed drone as it flies to the target.

What did the students like most about Drone Flight Camp? Here are a few responses from past campers:


“I liked learning the controls of flying a drone, how to fly it, the different challenges, the team building, and the competitive elements the most about the camp.”

“The thing that I liked most about this camp was doing FPV (first person view) drones.  These were on the simulator and on the bigger drones.”

“All the drone flying was awesome and the simulators were cool, plus the teachers were awesome.”

“I liked programming the drones using scratch.  I also liked the drone simulator.”

“I liked the obstacle courses that we made.”

Kramden offers a wide range of technology classes and camps throughout the year. Visit https://kramden.org/education/ to learn more!

Geek of the Week – Mitchel Geiss

Mitchell Geiss is Geek of the Week! This Super Geek first volunteered with Kramden in February 2015. Since that time, Mitchell has completed countless refurbishing projects, assisted with basic computer classes, and even recently joined our Production Manager for a few equipment pickups. Thank you, Mitchell, for your support and dedication to Kramden’s mission!

Favorite Geek Books: The 5th Wave, Alita: Battle Angel

Favorite TV Show: Arrowverse

Favorite Geek Movie:  Marvel Cinematic Universe

Favorite Website: YouTube

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Kramden?  Being able to help make computers available to students and families who are in need.  Also, I continue to learn new skills that I can apply to my schoolwork and everyday life.

Best Kramden Moment?  When I was asked by Marshall to be his assistant teacher last summer (2018). That was a great experience for me. It was my first time assisting a small group of adults who needed help learning basic computer skills. For some, it was a first time.

When you are not volunteering at Kramden, what do you do?  When I am not volunteering at Kramden, I am taking continuing educational courses. I continue to take computer-repair courses to get more hands-on training. Also I am taking a language course at UNCG. When I am not studying I enjoy playing golf on the weekends when the weather is nice.