Whatever interests our young people, there’s likely a technology program waiting for them at Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago.

Enjoy the intersection between sports and data? Our members can join the Black Kids Predict sports analytics program. This program is in partnership with Northwestern University, where college students in sports analytics will teach Club members how they can track and collect data from athletic movements, and how they can use that data to get better.

Love to build LEGO’s? Members from 6-10 years old could join our First LEGO League program, and learn how to create a robot using LEGOs and then code them to complete module tasks.

Want to learn how to get a job in the technology industry? Members can participate in Code Nation and get a tour of Chicago’s Google headquarters, where they can meet technology professionals and ask them questions about their careers.

Do you hope to create solutions and build apps for your phone? They can be part of BGCC’s Great Opportunities Program and the App Accelerator program through Everyone Can Code. They join a team, and if approved, can have their app be available for download in Apple’s Application store, just like four of BGCC’s teams did this past winter.

Is coding and creating items out of scratch more of your interest? Our young people can use one of BGCC’s 3-D printers and create a boat from scratch, as our Valentine Club did. Using the printer, Club members used Tinkercad technology to design, build and create a 3-D boat. Then they created a competition to race the boats in the Club’s swimming pool.

And these are just a handful of programs that are happening or will happen this year at BGCC’s 20+ Clubs around the city. Jon Rodriguez, BGCC’s Technology Program Manager said it’s all about building a foundation for our Club members and providing things they actually enjoy.

“I think what this variety of programming is allowing us to engage different types of kids from all sorts of Clubs,” Rodriguez said. “We’re not just looking to help them learn new skills, but allowing them to actively engage and have fun with their peers when doing it.

“For kids, I think having a more robust menu of programs, we’re seeing more engagement and retention in programming. As well as an increase in participation from our female Club members.”

BGCC’s staff teaches these programs, but they also bring in industry experts from from universities or other nonprofit organizations. And they are not just for teens, they are for all age groups.

Code Nation and the App Accelerator programs focus on teen engagement, and the First LEGO League program and the 3-D printing can be done with kids as young as 6.

“Every program has a foundation we are starting to build upon,” Rodriguez said. “Depending on the kid and what they are interested in, there will always be an opportunity for them to learn something new, and then a map of where the skills they learn can take them next.”

One of the best parts of the technology programs is that many Club members have said they are being exposed to new technology activities that they haven’t done in school.

“Doing our coding programs, it’s fun to think of solutions together, with my friends,” Club member Rodrigo, 12, said. “I just really love to learn how to do coding because we don’t do that in school. I’ve always wanted to make an 8-bit video game and I hope I can make one someday.”

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