“South L.A. is a tech desert, but URBAN TxT is changing that,” proclaimed Oscar Menjivar, founder of Urban TxT (Teens Exploring Technology) at the organization’s Demo Day 2014, held Saturday at the University of Southern California’s Salvatori Hall.
URBAN TxT, which announced it is rebranding itself as TxT, is a non-profit that works with inner-city boys to develop tomorrow’s technology leaders and to bring change to their communities.
Demo Day was MCed by Jesus Vargas, himself an active TxTer who has been with the program for two years. Vargas, who interned this summer at NationBuilder, is headed to college at Syracuse University this fall.
For 37 teenagers, the journey to Demo Day began 15 weeks ago when they started attending classes at URBAN TxT Summer Coding Leadership Academy, held on USC’s campus. The students divided up into 10 teams, with each team identifying a problem in their community team members wanted to solve using technology.
With the help of mentors from the technology industry in Los Angeles, the students learned market research, app development and coding, design, budgeting, entrepreneurial skills and how to pitch their ideas. Along the way, they also learned how to be leaders, to present their ideas in public and how to work collaboratively in a team.
Before the event began, Menjivar got emotional as he gave the students a pep talk and gave a shout-out to every student in the program. The students then went around the room and said two words that expressed what they got out of their summer coding experience.
Here are their words:
The TxTers then huddled and shouted with the passion of a winning football team, “WE ARE TXTERS!” before they headed to the auditorium to start the pitching competition.
Each team presented its pitch to a panel of five judges from companies such as Google and Rosetta. The judge scored each team’s presentation, then deliberated outside on the top three winners as tension and excitement grew inside the auditorium.
Third place went to Team Quindora (Sergio Perez, Jacob Castorena, Alejandro Vargas, Jonathan Marcelino) which created an app called Groupiee. It tackles the problem of which camera to look at when a bunch of people are taking a group photo.
The second place prize was awarded to Team Sumato (Jacques Tolefree, Cesar Alvarenga, Steven Gonzalez, Brian Parker) for their device M.O.M., or Missing Object Miracle, to help users remember to take their keys, wallets and phone before they leave home.
And … drum roll …. The winner was Team Incognito (Layquawn Windley, Kevin Herrera, Diego Arrenquin, Jonathan Casasola) for its app to help teenagers find great places to take their dates.
The winning team will receive funding and mentoring to create a teen tech startup.
Guest speaker at the event was Tom Torlakson, California Superintendent of Public Instruction, who said all of California needs what URBAN TxT is giving its students.
Ninth District Councilman Curren Price also addressed the teens, congratulating them and their proud parents in the audience.
To see tweeting from the event, search #SouthLADemoDay.
To learn more about TxT or to make a donation, visit http://www.urbantxt.org
Willa Seidenberg is a board member of TxT.