Communitech loves to support the community (it’s right there in our name).
Our IT team recently donated slightly used surplus laptops to two worthy projects: a City of Kitchener program that uses music technology to help high school students with special needs; and to the ACE Robotics Team at St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School in Cambridge.
The donation is part of Communitech’s ongoing effort to be an active supporter of the broader community, said Michael Persaud, Senior Manager, IT Systems at Communitech.
“In the past we have donated laptops, computers, printers, monitors and other computing assets to several non-profit organizations and programs around the region,” he said.
The City of Kitchener will use the Communitech laptops to support Temenos, an alternative education program launched by Camino Wellbeing + Mental Health.
“Temenos offers a unique education approach for high school students with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD), addressing sensory challenges and different learning styles,” said Debbie Engel, the agency’s Director of Programs and Services. “It provides a tailored curriculum, fosters mental health, social growth and introduces pathways to meaningful contributions in adulthood.”
Music producer Tait Garrett, owner of Track House Studio in Kitchener, will help develop a curriculum that will familiarize the students with technology.
“The laptops will be used for digital programs such as music and audio production to give students hands-on learning and real-world experiences that they can use throughout their lives,” Garrett said. “We want them to get comfortable with technology.”
Bob Egan, Film, Music and Interactive Media Officer at the City of Kitchener, said that music can educate, inspire and serve as a gateway to expose students to technology.
“By merging their musical interests with technology, we aim to nurture creativity and unconventional thinking,” Egan said. “This program is driven by the dual goals of fostering enjoyment and inclusivity, bridging the technology gap for a more equitable future."
Communitech’s previous donation to the Creative Recording Initiative, a music and technology program, gave teens hands-on experience with music and audio production.
“Those laptops were a game-changer for the program and for a couple of youth who participated in it,” Egan said.
Egan was a member of Blue Rodeo, the popular Canadian rock band, for 17 years before he decided to retire from the rock ‘n’ roll life in 2016 and join the City of Kitchener’s digital music program.
“I had promised myself that I would use the goodwill that I accrued from being a part of this amazing band and give back to the community,” he said. “I came to work for the city to do just that.”
Egan has designed programs such as the Creative Recording Initiative and Music for Good that foster a more compassionate, inclusive, and improved community.
“While some can easily create videos and more, a significant portion of the population lacks access to such technology,” he added. “Inclusion lies at the heart of our programs, aiming to bridge this technological divide and promote equality."
At St. Benedict, the Communitech laptops will help students on the school’s Ace Robotics Team with programming and business development, said science and math teacher Abel Chaves.
“They are pretty excited about it because these laptops are really good,” he said. “The programming team can use these laptops for 3D modeling as they really speed up the process. The business team is looking forward to crafting some cool documents.”
The Ace Robotics Team finished first at a robotics competition organized by the University of Waterloo last year and has plans to start preparing early this year.
“This year's team is entirely composed of new students who have never competed before,” Chaves said. “They are incredibly enthusiastic about the upcoming season. They have ambitious plans and a clear strategy in mind. Starting early is one of their main goals.”
Chaves said that the team is currently working on auto-tracking, which allows the robot to use a camera and seek out a target.
“We’re always growing and learning,” he added. “A lot of high school programs don't really give students an avenue into engineering or tech. This is giving them a lot of good experience.”
The biggest barrier is securing funding to compete in robotics competitions.
“The team is actively working on establishing connections with various companies, hoping to find the support they need,” Chaves said. “Despite the challenges, I am confident they will perform exceptionally well and make us proud."
Students from past years are now working at automotive companies like Tesla and Toyota and local companies like Eclipse Automation.
“The robotics program was really helpful for them,” Chaves said.