This weekend, Louis Pacilli will lead a test run of Geekdom’s SparkEd program with 40 at risk Junior High School kids.
The program officially starts next weekend at Geekdom, on the 11th floor of the Weston Centre in downtown San Antonio.
“It’s completely booked,” Pacilli said.
Kids from North East ISD, San Antonio ISD, Harlandale ISD, New Braunfels ISD and homeschool programs will participate.
“The idea is to spark their interest in math and science through technology,” Pacilli said. “We make learning fun and engaging so students build critical thinking skills. And then we help them make connections across school subjects. We want to help kids create their future and take ownership of the work to come.”
The program involves teaching kids programming, robotics, entrepreneurship and website design. During a weekend, they work in groups of 10 to design and build a Lego Mindstorms robot, create an online game, launch a website and create a business plan to sell the robot. Mentors from the technology and business community volunteer to help and give presentations to the kids. The students listen to six 30 minute presentations.
“SparkEd adopts a blacksmith apprentice approach where kids watch, learn and do,” Pacilli said. “We rely upon our awesome community member experts who practice this method daily at Geekdom. We add an additional layer of company and university student mentors to span the perspective.”
SparkEd leads students through a scaffolding learning process where key concepts and vocabulary unique to website design or entrepreneurship are developed and applied, Pacilli said.
“Through multiple pathways we encourage teenagers to embrace consideration for in demand future careers in science, technology, entrepreneurship, art and math, called STEAM,” he said.
In one weekend, the 7th and 8th graders learn everything they need to know to start a company.
“If we get kids to enter 9th grade more engaged, they are more likely to graduate and hopefully enter careers in technology or business,” Pacilli said. “We know six out of ten jobs in the future are going to be in technology related fields. We want to save children because they are our future. We want to inspire and spark them to purposefully craft their future.”
In addition to the school year programs, SparkEd plans to host week-long summer camps for the same kids so they can make mobile phone apps.
“We’re going to create ways that kids can build businesses,” Pacilli said. “SparkEd is about challenge based learning, solving a problem, finding a customer and making a sale – all the while being innovative.”
“We don’t live in a manufacturing economy where people can go to work at Ford for 40 years,” he said. “We need kids to think innovatively and to become problem solves and work collaboratively.”

Disclosure: Geekdom is a sponsor of Silicon Hills News