Friday, July 29, 2016

A Detroit engineer wants to turn old buses into tech labs for students

Posted By on Fri, Jul 29, 2016 at 2:06 PM

  • Thomas Phillips | Photo via Hack the CD
Detroit-born engineer Thomas Phillips believes that a high school diploma doesn't prepare young people for quality jobs as it once did. Qualification standards seem to be rising, and this is especially true in the tech industry. You can be sure that he knows what he's talking about. Phillips is a graduate of Lawrence Technological University and a quality assurance engineer for Amazon.

Phillips attended last month's Hack the Central District Cultural Innovation Conference (Hack the CD) in Seattle. Hack the CD is a two-day event in the "Africatown" neighborhood of Seattle's Central District where, according to their website, "creatives and technologists from across the globe showcase new concepts in designs, entrepreneurship, and technology."

It was at this conference that Phillips presented a fascinating idea: the Aspire Tech Bus.

"I wanted to convert an old school bus into a tech lab," Phillips said, "and 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."

Phillips wants to help students in the Detroit Public School system who are interested in the tech industry, whether they want to pursue a college degree, become entrepreneurs, or move right into a job.

His planned curriculum includes two 16-week courses, according to Michigan Radio. Students will work on software development teams, learning HTML, JavaScript, and other programming languages. They will also create LinkedIn profiles and learn how to present themselves professionally on social media.

At the end of the course, students are expected to have a code portfolio, the know-how to build a website and server from scratch, and the hardware that hosts these sites. Phillips's project has already attracted attention, and he will soon launch a Kickstarter campaign for more support.

Eventually, Phillips said, he wants the program to expand to other struggling communities and school districts. 

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