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The City Journals

Youth creativity finds a new home at South Salt Lake's Best Buy Teen Tech Center

Oct 22, 2019 01:30PM ● By Bill Hardesty

Teens enjoy interacting with current technology at the Promise SSL Best Buy Teen Tech Center. (Courtesy of Best Buy)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

Another jewel was added to the South Salt Lake Promise after-school offerings when the SSL Promise Best Buy Teen Tech Center located at the Columbus Center (2531 S. 400 East) held their grand opening on Oct. 1.

The Teen Tech Center provides a place for 13- to 18-year-olds to play with technology. In the center are three Apple computers and 14 Windows-based computers loaded with a variety of creative apps.

The room has a green screen which allows teens to take their picture and using a PC put themselves in another photo. Ephraim, a student at Granite Park Junior High School, enjoyed the setup. After taking a picture of him holding something, Ephraim placed himself in front of The White House alongside former President John F. Kennedy. In the final picture, Ephraim is holding the vintage "I want you" Uncle Sam poster — all created within the center in a matter of minutes.

When asked why President Kennedy, Ephraim responded, "JFK is my favorite president."

Ian, another GPJHS student, was the first student to use the Teen Tech Center on opening day in September. During the grand opening, Ian was wearing goggles and enjoying virtual reality. 

"I thought it would be an interesting place," Ian said on the opening day.

The Teen Tech Center also has a recording and editing studio, 3D printers and a button press. This allows students to design a button on a computer, print it out and wear them. 

An unusual offering at the center are Makey Makey Kits, which is a great way to learn about connectivity. By connecting everyday objects like fruit or Silly Putty to a computer, the objects become a touch pad for computer input. This allows users to be creative and in the words of the maker, "develop a Maker mindset." This allows users to see the world in a different way. 

The Teen Tech Center is open Tuesday through Friday from 3-7 p.m. and on Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

The Promise SSL Best Buy Teen Tech center was made possible with a $110,000 grant from Best Buy. This center is number 31 across the nation sponsored by Best Buy in partnership with Clubhouse Network. The partnership dates to 2013 and plans to have more than 60 centers by 2020.

"We truly invest in the communities where we do business...It is about how we serve the community where we live and the community where we raise our families," Bryan Dee, district manager of Best Buy, said during the grand opening.

Dee mentioned how most future jobs in America will require some type of technology skill. He also mentioned, "that in many of communities they serve the youth lack access to technology. They lack the training and mentorships that will allow them to get higher paid jobs."

Best Buy recognizes that while giving youth the tools to be creative, they also need mentors. Best Buy provide mentors at the Teen Tech Center. He challenged the teens to invite friends and always be creative.

Clubhouse Network is an international nonprofit with roots in Boston. They started in 1993 at the Computer Museum and have grown to over 100 clubhouses in 19 countries serving over 25,000 youth.

"I want them [SSL youth] to have every opportunity to get a head start on their college career," South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood said.

She pointed out the richness of locating the Teen Tech Center at the Columbus Center, which started out as a school. "This means that youth for 102 years have been educated in this building," Wood said. 

The grand opening ended with a talk by Jevahjire France, who is from Haiti. He is a recent graduate from Cottonwood High School and a former member of the award-winning Cottonwood High School Robotics team. France became involved in Promise South Salt Lake in the fall of 2016. However, he had his doubts about staying at school for two more hours. 

"After two days, I liked this program. The kid that found it annoying to stay at school for two more hours was then fascinated by it and would pray on a daily basis in class for school to be over just so he could stay after in the Promise program," France said.

He encouraged the youth to do wonderful things with the tools in the Teen Tech Center and added, "From my experience with the robotics team, this technology is hard to get. I would highly advise every kid not to take them for granted and use them wisely."