Drones help Philadelphia students reach new heights at first annual tech summit

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) — “Our ultimate mission is to inspire, expose, and empower kids through STEM to change the trajectory of their lives,” said John Henry.

Henry, who grew up in Center City, Philadelphia, realized digital equity was an issue while working as an infrastructure attorney. He founded Grace3 Technologies in 2015 to help provide connectivity solutions to first responders and community members.

His passion for helping kids manifested itself in the form of the first annual Xtreme5 Teen Tech Summit today. Pooling together technology partners, Henry was able to orchestrate a day full of hands-on learning for students from various out-of-school organizations in Philadelphia.

“I’m a first generation kid to go to college and law school,” he said. “So, I understand some of the challenges that they face.”

Henry’s educational programs primarily focus on drones, which are frequently called upon by utility workers and for other commercial services.

“There’s a lot of growth trajectories in that field and we’re trying to train low-wealth communities to participate in that ecosystem,” said Henry.

The Science History Institute played host to the technology-filled day, which featured virtual reality experiences and drone flights from companies like Drone Cadets and Skydio. Also, officers with the Philadelphia Police Department brought in vehicles for kids to learn about technologies used on the job.

Students were awestruck by the high-tech demonstrations.

“I kind of already have my future planned out, but this might change what I want to do when I’m older,” said Persephone, a student with the Police Athletic League of Philadelphia (PAL). “People talking about science really got my mind set on trying to be like a scientist or something like that.”

In a way, each student’s reaction was proof of a successful experiment on part of event organizers.

“If they can be induced to take an interest in science and technology, then they’ll say, ‘Gosh, I might want to study this’,” said David Cole, President and CEO of the Science History Institute. “We thought a great way to do that was to show them something about the history of science. To tell them stories. That’s the specialty of the Science History Institute.”

To learn more about Grace3 Technologies or the Science History Institute, visit their websites.

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