Podcasting with Austin Bat Cave

Podcasting with Austin Bat Cave

As a rule, each company playing in the Games chooses their charity to support. While I tend to recognize each one, when Startup Games: Austin 2016 rookie OwnLocal chose to support Austin Bat Cave, I had no idea who they were. But, I was excited to find out their mission is to develop writing skills in kids and teenagers. I’ve been writing ever since a kid, and love hearing about others fostering that passion in the next generation. So, I jumped at the chance to learn more. The opportunity arose this summer with their camp workshops where they focused on a specific realm of writing; subjects like, Magical Realism, Professional, and Post-Apocalyptic. I picked the Podcast Writing workshop to visit. I like podcasts, and I’m totally one of those people that have said, “I bet I could do a podcast.” I stopped by the workshop on a Wednesday in the middle of the week-long camp where a volunteer promptly introduced me to what all they were doing and what had already been done. The instructors were a trio of volunteers with a background in writing, podcasting, and audio, and along with Program Director, Ali, seemed like the perfect team. The “campers” were high schoolers, a small group (smaller than most of the other workshops) but very engaged. With an endless list of subjects for podcast topics, it turns out they opted to discuss the current and critical subject of mental health. I was immediately impressed. It was certainly something I thought little about at their age. The workshop mission was to cover each aspect of developing a podcast from outlines...
Flying Drones with Girlstart

Flying Drones with Girlstart

Have you ever flown a drone? I haven’t. I’ve heard about them. I’ve seen them. But, I’ve never held the controls. So when Girlstart invited me out to check out what they’ve got planned for their next summer camp, I couldn’t say no. Girlstart is a nonprofit who was supported by Modernize at Startup Games: Austin 2016. They focus on encouraging girls in learning about and participating in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) areas. They have year-round education programs, including a series of summer camps that focus on various areas of study. A small crowd gathered on a Thursday morning at Girlstart HQ (including a contingent from Modernize) where their team introduced us to their squadron of drones and plans for the camp. Their plan: teach the girls about manufacturing and aerospace engineering. How? Harry Potter. Or more accurately Hermione. She’s solving the crisis Hogwarts just encountered with their owls all getting sick, and mail now needing new transportation. The girls will learn about the drone’s specs, design a carrier, and then guide the drone safely to its destination. In teams of four, they’ll have to work together to save Hogwarts. The group received an opportunity to test these Hogwarts-saving drones out. We learned to take off, fly, and most importantly land. I can now say that I’ve flown a drone. And, not to brag, but I’m pretty good. These drones work on a two joystick system that made my time spent playing video games totally validated. Girlstart has a fascinating approach to engaging girls with real-world applications of STEM while integrating interesting stories. Hermione’s Mayhem of Mazes will be...
Breakthrough Austin and the Pros

Breakthrough Austin and the Pros

Way back in middle school, once a year our school counselor would come by our class to discuss possible careers. I remember a whole list of jobs based on the kind of interest you had. Doctor, Engineer, Technician, Real Estate Agent, etc. I vaguely knew what some of them were at the time, like obviously a doctor were those terrible people who stuck me with needles. Or pilots, who wore clear shield helmets and shot down the guys in dark shields. But, I didn’t really know people in these specialized jobs so I had no frame of reference for what they did, how they got there, or why I should pursue it. Without understanding the jobs, I had no path to reach them. Luckily, I got to see the very opportunity I missed for a group of middle schoolers. Breakthrough Austin (whom I volunteered with over the summer) has a program where they help the kids research different careers they’re interested in pursuing, then they bring in actual professionals to talk with them. This program meets three times, once a month on Saturday at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School which sit atop the gorgeous hills of west Austin. I wanted to see the program in action, so I volunteered to help with one of their groups. Split into fields of study, I spent the second Saturday with the Technology/Engineering group. These kids wanted to become engineers, video game designers, architects, and such. I was already impressed with them based on their ambitions. I mean my career choice during middle school was professional baseball player (though my counselor always made me put...
Volunteering with Meals on Wheels and More

Volunteering with Meals on Wheels and More

Before last week the only context I had for Meals on Wheels was of Marla stealing food trays in Fight Club. Of course not the only reason, but it was definitely time to update that impression, so we signed up to volunteer on a route. If you’re unfamiliar with them, Meals on Wheels and More (their full name) has a main function of delivering food to various homebound people in the community. On the day of, we rolled up to Meals on Wheels HQ around 10:30. They had us fill out some simple paperwork, then watch an informative training video that threw you back to high school movie days (aka best days of school). Afterward, we got to check out the food trays that we’d be using. I was fairly certain I’d botch the distribution job, but they use an easy color-coding system. Once training finished, we grabbed our coolers (the only thing we had to bring, though I’m pretty sure they had some in case we didn’t pay attention to the email explaining we needed bring two) and went to the pickup area. They have a quick check-in system, then we received a route sheet with a map, addresses, names, the color-coding system for the food, and even notes to help once you got to the house. One cooler held the hot food, and the other the cold. Then we were off. Our delivery routes were set in east Austin, but they have pickup sites and routes throughout the city. We followed the map to the first house which wasn’t far away from HQ. Then, we got one...
Volunteering with Breakthrough Austin

Volunteering with Breakthrough Austin

  When the group of 6th grade kids before me said they wanted to be pediatricians, engineers, and veterinarians, I knew something was going right. These fledgling, sciency people were just beginning a program that would help them achieve those goals.   The program runners, Breakthrough Austin, have a mission to help low-income students in Central Texas find their way through the second half of their school career to become a first-generation college grad. I spent two afternoons seeing the results of Breakthrough’s summer course in presentations from two different groups of students. As a product of Central Texas public education, I was interested to find out what they do.   Central Texas has a staggering number of low-income kids not graduating from college or even high school. Beginning in the early Aughts, Breakthrough has already seen success in their first groups, and they take the summer as an opportunity to continue these kids’ education.   I served as a volunteer with 20+ others to see the students present their work. First, a group of high school Juniors spent the summer tasked with doing something productive, then reflect on that experience. It was great to hear about a young woman overcome her shyness to step up as a leader. Or, after working with his father, a young man was able to break a stilted relationship.   I returned another day to see presentations from a small class of middle schoolers. A group of 6th graders showed off what they’d been working on with their teachers. They began timidly reading works they’d written or explaining exchange rates of various countries. Then,...