Computer Clubhouse arrives in NZ

Digital Strategy delivers for South Auckland - and beyond

New Zealand's first Computer Clubhouse, a place where young people from underserved communities can learn not just how to use computing but how to programme and develop digital media, will open in Otara, South Auckland, next month.

Kane Milne is Clubhouse 274's coordinator, though his business card title reads "Master of the Universe". He says the clubhouse is all about "constructionist" learning, where young people learn what they are interested in learning.

Milne says the clubhouse's computers have no games on them and access to the internet is limited. Instead, kids can use facilities such as a video studio, a music studio and even a robotics suite.

Kids can use one of the clubhouse's 16 brand new PCs to produce animation or other digital media. Graphics software from Adobe and New Zealand developer Right Hemisphere, through its NextSpace subsidiary, are in use.

Clubhouse 274 is the first New Zealand organisation to be approved under Adobe's Youth Voices philanthopic programme, Milne says.

Constructionist learning

Also on the machines is software from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to help kids get into computer programming.

Clubhouse 274 is the first of its kind in the country, but others are likely to follow, he says, citing similar efforts in other parts of Auckland and in Wanganui and Hamilton.

Milne says Clubhouse 274 came about after a couple of South Auckland community organisations were looking to create an after school centre for youth. They found the clubhouse model, created by MIT's Media Lab and the Museum of Science in Boston, that fitted what they were trying to achieve (see also "Otara youth leaders go to Boston").

The groups teamed up with two local schools, Te Whanau o Tupuranga and Clover Park Middle School, and a memorandum of understanding was signed to create the clubhouse. Then it was all about finding funding.

Clubhouse 274 has been supported by the Department on Internal Affairs through the government's Digital Strategy and by private philanthropy from the ASB Community Partnership and the Tindall Foundation. There were also numerous private and in-kind contributions, he says.

Clubhouse 274 has a Maori and Pacific Island flavour, but not becasue it "does culture", Milne says, but because it is lived and breathed.

"Youth here are very aware of their culture. It's ingrained into day-to-day life, the way we do things."

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