Faye and Dave Hall Introduce Build-It Technology Classes
Photo by Eric Leslie
After Faye Hall and her family relocated to Redding from Santa Cruz, they took a leap of faith that their Build It technology-themed classes and workshops would inspire kids to come and discover their own tech-related field of dreams. And come they have, in droves.
To gauge interest before opening, the company held its first summer camp for kids through the City of Redding. “We didn’t know what to expect,” says Hall, “but it turned out the waiting list was twice the size of the number of available spots.” They added a second camp, and then a third, and demand kept growing. “We ran seven camps total, selling out each one.”
From its warehouse location on Merchant Street in Redding, Hall and staff host several monthly classes for kids. The primary goal: to empower children to master technology while nurturing their creativity through fun, innovative and project-oriented activities.
The Fun with Tech class, designed for ages 6 and up as an introductory sampling of available course offerings, gives children a chance to find their niche. During the two-hour weekly sessions, students explore with Lego Robotics, computer programming, Keva Planks and filmmaking using iStopMotion animation.
Terry Swope, mother to Hannah (9) and David (7), found Build It online several months before it opened and mentioned it to her husband. The Swopes signed up both children for an initial class after Hall and her students were impressed at the Economic Development Corporation’s Game Changers event last September.
“We wanted them to get a taste of the different options and also let the instructors evaluate their fit for future classes,” says Terry Swope. While Hannah preferred the animated filmmaking, David became fascinated with the Lego Robotics and has continued with the first class in that multi-part series.
“Lego Robotics involves both programming and design,” says Hall. “If kids want their robot to go three feet and turn left 90 degrees and it’s only turning 45 degrees, they have to go into the computer program and tweak the parameters.”
Instructors project class presentations onto a big-screen monitor, which in turn feeds to small laptops shared by student pairs. Working together, students learn about the product development cycle as they use the interface to program the robots.
Hall, who spent two decades in the high-tech industry and stints at eBay and Sprint, would like to see more girls involved. “I’m a girl and I worked with guys in this geek world. It’s not that big of a deal,” she says.
With a predominantly male staff, Hall says the perception that technology is a male realm still persists. “ Girls can do this. We train them. It’s not like they have to have a computer science background,” Hall says.
To encourage parents who may not be able to afford the $10 per instructional hour cost of classes, Hall offered scholarships during the summer camps for veterans and low-income families, but the money went unclaimed.
“Although we are a for-profit business, we really wanted this to be affordable for every kid,” she says. “This is so important for those kids who may not otherwise have the opportunity to come in and realize they are smart and capable in ways not normally measured in the classroom.” Program Director Alec Figueroa has developed a mobile program that can be taken into local classrooms.
In November, the business debuted Code It, month-long boot camps and classes aimed at adults interested in career-oriented IOS Application development, website development and programming.
Hall’s 12-year-old son, Andre, wants to be a filmmaker when he grows up. In the meantime, he helps out in the classroom and happily demonstrates the iStopMotion animation process to curious visitors.
“He learned about 3D printing in a science class at Redding School of the Arts and came home and told me he wanted a 3D printer,” says Hall, who admits she didn’t know what her son was talking about. Build It now offers MakerBot 3D Printing with Minecraft workshops.
“Kids are telling me amazing things like, ‘I’m going to change the world through technology,’” says Hall.“There’s a cross left-brain, right-brain thing here. The geniuses—the innovators in the world—use both. We don’t want kids to be typecast as either left or right brain. We want them to use their whole brain.”