Detroit Engineer: Turn Buses into Rolling Tech Teaching Labs
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

An Amazon engineer hailing from Detroit has a novel idea for that city’s unused school buses: turn them into mobile tech labs.

Thomas Phillips presented his idea at last month’s Hack the Central District Cultural Innovation Conference (Hack the CD) in Seattle, according to The Detroit Metro Times. The Aspire Tech Bus would be a school bus modified into a mobile tech lab. In this lab, students will work on coding projects as an actual software development team.

The students will learn basic and advanced topics in full stack Web development: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for front-end development, and NodeJS and ExpressJS for back-end development. Students will also be taught to build a website and a server from scratch. Furthermore, Phillips’ vision extends to teaching career skills as well, such as project management skills, how to create LinkedIn profiles, and how to establish professional email addresses.

The planned curriculum includes two 16-week courses, in total. The mobile lab students will receive a Raspberry Pi computer. By the end of the program, they will have a portfolio of coding projects to present to potential employers.

“I envision this project as a ‘high-tech, voc-tech,'” he says, as giving students high-tech skills before college will better position them for success. “Some of them will choose to pursue their education further at the college/ university level, others will venture into the entrepreneurial sector. Both of these have far reaching implications that reverberate across the world,” said Phillips at the event.

Phillips’s project has already attracted attention, and he will soon launch a Kickstarter campaign for more support. “I want to drive around to different locations in the city and teach web development or other advanced STEM programming concepts to kids in Detroit,” he said in an interview. His goal is to eventually roll out his program to other underserved communities and school districts.

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Samara Lynn

Samara Lynn is a technology journalist, covering the industry for a decade. Her work appears in The Wirecutter, Tom's Hardware, PC Mag, and other online outlets. She's the author of "Windows Server 2012: Up and Running" and previously worked in the IT industry. She's currently the digital manager at Black Enterprise.


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