HackBerry hosts educational program to inspire students

Camille Hanner, Reporter

Amberlee Williams, Editor

Berry College’s HackBerry Lab worked with Floyd County schools and hosted educational experiences to introduce creative design to local young people.

HackBerry is a place where students invent, design and solve problems in a creative way. It is located between the barns behind Morgan and Deerfield and is home to the Creative Technologies program. However, a wide range of students and programs utilize the lab.

According to the lab’s director Zane Cochran, HackBerry unites with Rome schools to teach STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) classes to local students. STEAM is an educational approach to learning that uses science, technology, engineering, art and math to teach critical thinking and creativity, Cochran said.

The educational program HackBerry Voyagers runs throughout the academic year. The lab hosts on-site activities for over 500 K-12 students in Rome and Floyd County and gives leadership and volunteer opportunities to 30 Berry students. Cochran said the program was made to get young students inspired and excited.

“They learn how to be creative and solve problems,” he said.

Cochran and student lab assistant Mariah Kelly both said it was important to introduce creative technology at a young age.

“(It) makes it seem less complicated,” Kelly said. “Lots of college students come in now and say they wish they could do what we were doing. Why can’t you? I teach kindergartners how to do this, so can you!”

Education and creative technology majors participated with the program throughout the school year. HackBerry Administrator Jill Cochran said that education majors were excited to practice teaching children of all ages, and creative tech majors were challenged to explain various technologies at a basic level. High school teachers were also invited to Voyagers and took their new skills back to their own classrooms and labs.

“The teachers are excited to see ways to take those very traditional subjects and show their students creative ways to use math and science,” she said.

Beside Voyagers, Berry students also helped the local youth by doing nonprofit projects and volunteering elsewhere. One student developed 3D printing prosthetics for local children who could not afford traditional prosthetics. HackBerry also visited the Open Door Children’s Home once a week to tutor students on coding and 3D modeling, according to HackBerry’s Facebook page.

HackBerry also hosted the Maker Academy for local high schoolers up until two years ago. However, it has not received funding since then, and Zane Cochran said it is in desperate need of support. In this program, Berry students mentored high schoolers over summer breaks and worked on different technology projects such as custom circuit boards, according to HackBerry’s Twitter.

Berry students spoke highly of their HackBerry community. Their ideation space was used for relaxation as well as innovation, Kelly said. HackBerry members build community and often relieve stress by playing video games late at night. The community bonding in the lab is also combined with a great deal of long hours perfecting projects and hard work.

“It is really fun when people find a passion and combine that with technology,” Zane Cochran said.

HackBerry staff and students are excited for future opportunities for local students’ continued participation at the lab, Zane and Jill Cochran said.

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