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Volume 9, Issue 3
February 2017

Mobile Technology Classroom that Propels Imagination and Learning

The Information Technology Empowerment Center (ITEC) TechTransport Bus

  • Kirk Riley, M.S.
  • Executive Director, Information Technology Empowerment Center
  • Academic Specialist, University Outreach and Engagement

Information Technology Empowerment Center (ITEC)

Originally organized by MSU faculty and staff, ITEC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that offers programs in science, technology, engineering, and math. Established in 2008, ITEC's staff, board of directors, donors, and volunteers represent business, education, nonprofit, and service sectors.

ITEC's shared vision with a wide network of community supporters is to provide Lansing area residents with flexible, transferable technological skills that will equip them to participate in a fast-paced global economy.

The Information Technology Empowerment Center (ITEC) introduced a bus designed to bring technology to Lansing area learners during their TechTransport program rollout on January 25.

Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are widely acknowledged as vital skills for preparing individuals to enter the 21st century workforce. The fundamental tools necessary for STEM education include computers, software programs, and Internet access, and those tools can be difficult to afford—or financially out of reach—for underserved populations. ITEC has developed the TechTransport program to address gaps in technological access that impede learning for economically distressed populations.

TechTransport Bus

Dean Transportation in Lansing, one of the largest privately-owned transportation companies in the country, donated a motor coach that was repurposed as the TechTransport Bus. Kellie Dean, president and CEO of the company, is a former special education teacher and Lansing School District administrator, and a lifelong supporter of youth programs and community efforts that address need gaps. He envisioned the mobile computer lab, partnered with ITEC, and worked to bring the concept to completion.

"The TechTransport Bus was redone as a fully developed technology classroom that will travel to scheduled destinations. It's based on the same concept as public libraries and their bookmobile programs. The bus is designed so that youth and adults enter a technology lab that makes it exciting, comfortable, and enjoyable to learn," said Kirk Riley, ITEC executive director.

ITEC aims to serve 2,500 children and adults in the mid-Michigan region annually through TechTransport programs. Curriculum and courses include:

  • Space Launch Programs, including a simulated mission to Mars as part of a team of astronauts, engineers, and scientists
  • Mobile teaching platforms in robotics, digital media, game design, animation programming, web development, app development, 3-D printing, virtual reality, and Minecraft modification classes
  • Financial literacy workshops, in partnership with MSU Federal Credit Union
  • College readiness workshops, in partnership with Capital College Access Network
  • Math and science after-school tutoring programs
  • GED preparation
  • Entrepreneurship education
  • Field trips

Also integral to that process was Patrick Dean, Dean Transportation business development director, who shares his father's commitment to community involvement. He serves as president of the ITEC board of directors, and works with a vibrant and collaborative group of community partners, donors, supporters, and volunteers. The TechTransport program and bus went from idea to readiness because of strong support from sponsors and professionals who donated time, materials, and skilled trade expertise.

TechTransport launch event 2017

"We are thankful for the community response," said Dean. "Employers, educators, and parents recognize the importance of technology. If we can provide an environment that makes it appealing, then it introduces a fresh perspective about learning, especially for people who haven't had the opportunity to learn science in a relaxed yet intellectually stimulating setting."

Riley and Dean collaborated with several partners to build support for the bus and the necessary equipment. The goal was to make it an appealing and dynamic learning environment that would inspire curiosity, innovation, and discovery.

"We can change the lighting to reflect what students will be working on—for example the Space Launch programs and the mission to Mars. It puts you in a frame of mind that helps you identify with the Mars landscape and focus more intently on the simulations on the computer screen. It really helps kids get invested in what they are trying to accomplish," Riley said.

According to Shannon Fransen, ITEC director of education, launching into space and landing on distant planets will be exciting to their largest audience, fourth through eighth graders. What excites Fransen is the creative exploration, communication, and problem solving that students will experience as they work in teams and take on missions. Fransen is responsible for curriculum design, instructor recruitment, and course schedules. She works with Jessica Martin, education program coordinator, who assists with program scheduling, curriculum content updates, and outreach events.

To learn more about the TechTransport program visit the ITEC website or ITEC's facebook page.

TechTransport Program and Bus Sponsors

  • Dean Transportation
  • Dart Foundation
  • RE Olds Foundation
  • Consumers Energy
  • Delta Dental
  • Jackson National Life Insurance Company
  • Joe D. Pentecost Foundation
  • Lansing Community College
  • MSU University Outreach and Engagement
  • Our Community Foundation
  • Rodger and Kate Graef Family Foundation
  • WKAR Curious Crew
  • City of Lansing, Parks and Recreation
  • Gannett Company, Inc.
  • The Exchange Club of Greater Lansing
  • Lansing Kiwanis Club
  • Uplift Our Youth Foundation

TechTransport Bus Team—donations of time, materials and/or trade

  • Todd Wilson, Michigan State University Infrastructure Planning and Facilities, Engineering and Architectural Services, project manager
  • Mathew Jarvi, C2AE, electrical design
  • Ted Shotwell, Granger Construction, general construction
  • Bill Kimble, C2AE, electrical design
  • Kirk Domer, MSU Theater Department, design/theatrical experience
  • Jeff Shannon, A.S.K., IT support and installation
  • Joe D'Alessandro, F.D. Hayes Electric, electrical support
  • Cortney Williams, F.D. Hayes Electric, electrical support and installation
  • John Toomey, Counter Fitter, Inc., custom counters/cabinet carpentry
  • Mark Kruger, A Build Co., custom cabinetry
  • Scott Blackmer, Dean Transportation, mechanical support
  • Darrel DuBois, Dean Transportation, mechanical support
  • John Waddell, FamousMods, LLC, LED installation
  • Jesse Pivirotto, FamousMods, LLC, LED coding contact
  • Richard Scott, BNC Mobile RV, rooftop AC unit installation
  • Todd Holmes, Carpet Guy & Gal, Inc., interior reupholstery
  • Brandon Tripp, Driven Collision, interior reupholstery
  • Written by Carla Hills, University Outreach and Engagement
  • Photographs and video courtesy of ITEC