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Estella's Brilliant Bus discovers technology in Opelika

July 19,2016 11:07

Estella's Brilliant Bus, a mobile opportunity to learn about technology, made a stop in Opelika on Monday where more than 20 students and adults tested various technologies, including virtual reality through glasses attached to iPhones and performing ...



Estella’s Brilliant Bus, a mobile opportunity to learn about technology, made a stop in Opelika on Monday where more than 20 students and adults tested various technologies, including virtual reality through glasses attached to iPhones and performing tasks with remote-controlled robots.

The Round House, a collaborative workspace in Opelika, was the fifth stop on a 12-day tour for Esetalla’s Brilliant Bus. The concept for the bus came from founder Estella Pyfrom, a former schoolteacher, as a way to provide underprivileged students an opportunity to learn about technology in a hands-on environment.

The organization, which is based in West Palm Beach, Florida, aims to make everything students learn on the tour relevant, Pyfrom said.

“We know when we expose them to computers, it’s not just keyboarding and all that, it’s, ‘How do I do better in math by going through my activities in math?’ Pyfrom said. “Everything is relevant to something; that’s the key.”

About 20 students from six states, including Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., are traveling in this year’s Brilliant Minds Tour, studying everything from coding and robotics to mobile app building and entrepreneurship.

Students are selected to participate in the tour, which also is scheduled to visit cities such as Birmingham, Selma and Atlanta, through recommendations from partner organizations such as schools and churches.

Danute Jean Charles has participated in the tour for two years. After being exposed to computer programming last year, the 18-year-old said he is looking into pursuing it as a career.

“I had never heard about coding or learned what coding was,” Jean Charles said, adding that he has developed several ideas for apps.

Laura Hall, a member of the Round House, reached out to Pyfrom about coming to Opelika and was able to bring the Brilliant Minds Tour to the area with the sponsorship of Auburn University.

Robotics Instructor Frank Ware, with Auburn’s Southeastern Center of Robotics Education, led students in wheeled robot competitions, creating various games for them to hone their skills. Ware noted that studying robotics gives students an advantage later in life in a world of increasing technological influence.

“Robots are here now,” Ware said. “We talk about STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. We try to teach a lot of those STEM skills so these kids will be more prepared in the world that’s coming at us faster and faster.”

Pyfrom launched Estella’s Brilliant Bus in 2011 with more than 50 years of education experience. She has won several awards throughout her career, including recognition as a CNN Hero in 2013.

For more information about Pyform or how to help with Estella’s Brilliant Minds Tour, visit www.estellasbrilliantbus.org.

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