For 12 years, the Patriots Technology Center in Seat Pleasant, Md., has hosted an annual youth technology summit. On April 24, the center will hold its 13th edition of an event planners say has grown by leaps and bounds.

“It certainly was more of a community focused group 13 years ago in the Seat Pleasant area, but since that time I believe it’s taken on a much wider swab,” said Jon Rutherford, a spokesman for the center. “We’ve had students and attendees from Virginia, Baltimore and points north and south because it has grown in its positive view.”

The center itself is a nonprofit organization to help students get involved in science, technology or math (STEM) fields. It is one that Rutherford says has changed the lives of many young men in the community.

“We’ve had kids that come to the program with very little focus; their attention span was quite short,” he said. “Now I see them graduate from high school and go off to college and they stand tall, talk with authority and are proud.”

Thurman Jones, president and brainchild of the center had that in mind when he thought of ways to get more out of the center. That’s how the idea of having a summit came about.

“The idea was to bring organizations, who are saying we need more students—mainly minority—to major in STEM careers, together,” Jones said. “From the high-tech firms to federal agencies, they’re all saying they need more minorities for STEM careers.

“At the event, the companies will set up an exhibit so kids can get familiar with their organizations and also tell the kids about some of the programs they have for the students.”

Some of the organizations involved will be BAE Systems, Best Buy, Pepco, Microsoft, the Naval Academy, Department of Defense and NASA.

However, company presentations isn’t all there is to the summit. There also will be several workshops for students and their parents along with various competitions.

For students, they will have workshops and competitions on computer building, web page development, networking technologies, and robotics.

In the computer building contest, teams of four students will build a computer from the ground up with the fastest and most efficient team winning. All members of the winning team will receive a new laptop as a prize.

For parents, their workshops are geared towards helping their children be as successful as possible in STEM careers. There are workshops on partnering with federal agencies to pay for college and gain employment after graduation and finding the right software to help students improve classroom skills. Jones says working with parents is just as important as working with their children.

“We have parents there because we think parent involvement plays a huge role in student success and going to college,” he said. “Most students really don’t know the roadmap to go to college and, a lot of times, parents can do the research, get involved with people that know about getting scholarships, community activities or getting jobs.”

For people at the center, having an event on this scale is a sense of pride. They say they have a responsibility to make sure all kids have an opportunity to gain access to these fields, but they are very pleased that people are able to see something good coming out of Prince George’s County.

“When we started out, we were pretty much focused on the African-American community in Seat Pleasant. We might’ve had 50-60 kids at the first one,” said Rutherford. “These days were seeing upwards of 500-600 kids or more; plus parents and session providers. This is still a source of pride for us.”


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO