LINCOLN BLVD — With the snip of a pair of average-size scissors, the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Monica on Wednesday cut the ribbon on its Club Tech Center of Excellence, an upgrade in hardware and software for its kids, courtesy of Microsoft.
The investment in 12 new computers, all fully-loaded with Microsoft Office 2010, robotics programming, game development and other state-of-the-art software, represents the latest evolution in Club Tech, a program initiated in 2000 by a $100 million donation from Microsoft.
The Boys & Girls Club of Santa Monica has one of only 10 programs that get the designation Center of Excellence, said Tyler Bryson, general manager for Enterprise and Partners Group for the southwest district of Microsoft.
“Santa Monica was chosen because of what goes on here,” Bryson said.
It took a handful of 13-year-old club members two days to set up the new stations, which are capable of running four stations off of one very-powerful computer.
Kids get the ability to arrange themselves in a square pattern, which not only saves space, but encourages collaboration on everything from projects to games, said Roy Shioda, tech director for the center.
“It’s really valuable,” he said.
It’s easy to see the difference — on the eastern end of the tech center are the older machines, lined up side by side against the far wall. On the opposite side of the room, the new computers are clustered so that each user can see all of the others.
Not visible is the processing unit, which runs all four stations independently of one another.
Boys & Girls Club members Deron and Kyle, both 13, helped set up each of the new machines. (Boys & Girls Club is not allowed to release last names of youth members.)
“We basically gave them a blueprint, said this is how it should look, and they put them together,” Shioda said.
They use the machines to do projects like designing T-shirts, Kyle said.
Microsoft has a long-standing relationship with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America because it has an interest in promoting learning, Bryson said.
“We think the Boys & Girls Club of America aligns with our vision to educate and empower the next generation of tech users to reach their full potential,” Bryson said.
This kind of outreach helps reinforce learning that starts in local schools, said Celeste Alleyne, citizenship director for the west region.
“They can come here after school and learn more,” she said.
The progress made with the less-advanced technology was already amazing, and the new materials will help club members excel, said Aaron Young, chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Monica.
“We’re going to be able to take it to the next level with all our kids,” Young said.
For Mayor Richard Bloom, an alumni of the organization, the center is one more sign that Santa Monica is a city of excellence, that strives to improve its facilities for kids and adults alike.
“There is a deep need for a facility like this,” Bloom said.
The Boys & Girls Club took root in Santa Monica 66 years ago. It currently serves 7,000 youth through memberships, which cost $20 per year, and community outreach.
Children come from all over the county, including Santa Monica, Venice, West Los Angeles and Inglewood.