The Computer Clubhouse movement, which aims to give young people experience with a range of technologies, is undergoing a major expansion in New Zealand, with the official opening of four new clubhouses in addition to the pioneer house in Otara.
The second house, in Hamilton, has been in operation for a short time, but was officially opened on Friday by Prime Minister John Key. Other new houses will be in Naenae in the Hutt Valley, Whakatane and, long rumoured but confirmed last week, Wanganui.
Computer Clubhouse New Zealand is affiliated with the international Computer Clubhouse network, which is sponsored by Intel and assisted by the Museum of Science in Boston and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s MediaLab.
The international network supports more than 100 clubhouses in 20 countries.
The New Zealand clubhouses will be networked together and have a link to the flagship clubhouse in the US, says spokesperson Kubé Jones.
Clubhouses aim to give young people from 10 to 18 a measure of “technological literacy”, says Jones; they learn to work with video and audio recording equipment, visual design and architecture applications and robotics as well as computers; there is little emphasis on the business computer-literacy fare of word processing, spreadsheet and database, except where it is useful in the context of the students’ broader technological projects.
Training is provided by mentors who are professionals in fields such as video or architecture and are given further training in the Computer Clubhouse learning model, says Jones.
Computer Clubhouse New Zealand survives largely on corporate and philanthropic funding, though it obtained a grant early last year from the Digital Strategies Community Partnership programme, set up by the previous Labour-led government. It has also been supported by the Ministry of Youth Development and local authorities.
Computerworld understands that an application for further government funding is in the pipeline. Though Key was very supportive and talked of the merit of public-private partnerships, Jones says, no further government funding was announced at the event.
One of Computer Clubhouse NZ’s recent innovations is a link on its website for members of the public to make donations.