Gigabit Cities

TechTown Trains Future Techies

Chattanooga is serious about its gigabit city, and not just about the bandwidth it offers. In addition to delivering a high-speed network, supporting several startup incubators and declaring a new Innovation District in town, Chattanooga now hosts a learning center designed to train the city's younger generation in creative and technical skills.

The new TechTown facility (gigabit provider EPB Fiber Optics is a sponsor) opened this summer with several camps for children between the ages of seven and 17. The goal of these camps? To support not just STEM learning (i.e., science, technology, engineering and math), but STEAM, with an added "A" in the middle for art. TechTown's motto is "Build Something Amazing," and it's giving kids the tools and resources to do just that.

The theory of TechTown is that a successful next-generation workforce will need to be able not only to engineer new solutions, but also communicate and collaborate well in the process. TechTown offers sessions in software development, robotics and 3D printing, but also in design, video production and even performance. Learning is project-based, with each week of camp dedicated to meeting a specific goal. During one week, kids developed a new elemental object -- cheese -- in the online game Minecraft using Javascript. Another group tested GoPro cameras while learning how to film a commercial. 3D-printed objects are everywhere in TechTown's indoor campus.

3D Printing at TechTown in the Gigabit City of Chattanooga
Kids at TechTown get hands-on 3D printing experience
Kids at TechTown get hands-on 3D printing experience

Part of the appeal of the program is the access to high-tech toys. However, it's not just about having that equipment on site, but also having people who know how to use the technology. Camper Kaden Llewellyn at TechTown acknowledged that his school actually has its own 3D printer, "but no one knows how to use it."

Fortunately, TechTown isn't just hosting camps for the summer. It also plans to offer courses during the school year starting this fall. There will be a combination of after-school programs, field trip opportunities and longer-term partnerships with schools that want to take advantage of TechTown's resources and expertise.

The rollout of Gigabit broadband access networks is spreading. Find out what's happening where in our dedicated Gigabit Cities content channel here on Light Reading.

This is a positive development for students. Camper Dorisha King told Light Reading that TechTown is about more than just building tangible products. "As we're building," said King, "we're building confidence."

That confidence and skill is what Chattanooga hopes to breed more of in the coming years. After all, these are the kids who will figure out what's possible with a gigabit network. It's their work that will make the network infrastructure Chattanooga has in place now even more valuable in the future. (See EPB: 10Gbit/s Service Feasible Within a Year.)

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

Ariella 9/22/2015 | 9:47:38 AM
Re: Replicate all over < And with so many outdated abandoned phones, we can have so many microscopes.> @Nasimon and less potentialy toxic waste thrown out, as well. 
nasimson 9/21/2015 | 11:50:08 PM
Re: Replicate all over $1 microscope! Really? That will be an awesome thing to put in every child's hands. I've heard of one that gets latched on to the phone camera. That lens can be $1! And with so many outdated abandoned phones, we can have so many microscopes.
Ariella 9/1/2015 | 12:53:42 PM
Re: Replicate all over Inspiration to discover is a great thing. I even have to grant Disney credit, as according to an Atlantic article on a $1 microscope, it does bring people to pursue scientific investigation, including this,   " Inspired by the movie Frozen, one six-year-old is turning her attention to crystals, drawing and documenting everything she sees in her own lab notebook."
nasimson 9/1/2015 | 10:31:43 AM
Replicate all over What an amazing story! This needs to be replicated in schools all over the city, all over the state, all over the country, all over the world. Only then we'll be able to find the solutions to problems facing humanity.
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