A new Best Buy Teen Tech Center will give youth who attend the Martin Luther King Jr. Center free access to high-tech tools such as 3D printers, vinyl maker, photography, video and audio software.
The Best Buy Teen Tech Center is the first in Indiana and is one of 22 such centers around the country. The tech centers are a free resource to help youth develop the technical skills they’ll need in STEM related careers. The MLK Center recently held the kickoff celebration of the Best Buy Teen Tech Center.
“I often get asked why Best Buy and why do I work there,” Raymond Silva, Best Buy senior vice president of retail operations, said at the grand opening. “One of the ways I often answer that question is to simply state Best Buy is a company with a heart. Best Buy is a company with a soul.”
Best Buy provided construction, equipment and partial funding while other organizations including Klipsch and the Community-Based Violence Prevention Partnership also contributed to the center’s costs. However, the MLK Center will be responsible for day-to-day operations.
“It’s not Best Buy’s show,” Allison Luthe, executive director of the MLK Center, said. “It’s the MLK Center’s show and the neighborhood youth’s show.”
By providing access to tools and mentors who can help develop marketable skills, the center allows youth to experiment with a wide variety of subjects from coding to music production.
Jamison Lewis, a Shortridge High School student and Best Buy Teen Tech Center apprentice, said the center’s 3D printers were “one of the coolest things I’ve seen in person.”
While the center will have plenty of equipment on hand, the teen and adult mentors share valuable insight and information that make the lessons come alive.
“This is another way I can show young kids what’s possible,” said Elana Carter, a software developer at Salesforce and MLK Center volunteer.
The Best Buy Tech Center is open year-round, filling the need for more activities for youth.
“To put it simply, our kids need something to do after school,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said.
The tech center offers a constructive way for students to spend their time and receive the technical experience they’ll need for high wage and high demand jobs in the tech sector.
“Among the youth who attend Teen Tech Centers around the country, 95 percent plan to continue their education past high school, and 71 percent increased their interest in studying in STEM fields,” Silva said.
Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.