Virtually New Orleans
CU camp teaches technology to teens using Hurricane Katrina and the Internet
A group of teenagers studied maps of New Orleans on a projector screen Thursday, as a professor from Dillard University -- who lost his home in Hurricane Katrina -- explained the images that swirled with engineering, socioeconomic and geography lessons.
The eight students from Denver high schools are on the University of Colorado campus this month for a technology camp, which is run through a partnership that CU has with the Denver Public Schools system. CU has a separate partnership with Dillard University, a private, historically black college in New Orleans.
High school students enrolled in the camp are spending this week intensively exploring what led up to the 2005 storm that ravaged the Gulf Coast and went down in history books as one of the costliest and deadliest hurricanes. Later, the students will use Google SketchUp software and will post virtual reconstruction projects on Google Earth, where the models will be viewable worldwide.
Ian Hales, who teaches courses at CU, said the students' projects will help raise awareness that, nearly three years after the storm, there are still homes in New Orleans without roofs and stores that are boarded and closed.
The CU camp, called Digital Currents, is a three-week educational experience for students that is organized by CU's Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society Institute.
Hales said the point of the program is to help "bridge the digital divide," and get more minority and female students interested in technology and how it can be used to convey ideas.
In past years, students have made music videos, built computers for a nonprofit group and blogged about images of women in the media.
Students participating in the camp this year will maintain a Web site journal and will post written blogs and video podcasts highlighting daily events.
Andrea Deseguin, 17, from Thomas Jefferson High School, said she never thought she had a knack for computer work until she became involved with the school district's Computer Magnet Program, which feeds students into the CU camp. She said she realized she's good at Web design and constructing 3-D images and wants to somehow use that newfound talent to help bolster her dream career as a veterinarian.
Deseguin said she is enjoying learning more of the intricate details surrounding Hurricane Katrina -- details that she said were overlooked in the coverage of the chaotic natural disaster.
When she begins her design work, she said, she will try to preserve the history of New Orleans.
"The people just want their homes back," Deseguin said.
On Thursday, eight students heard the presentation from Robert Collins, chairman of the urban studies department at Dillard University. Hurricane Katrina destroyed about 80 percent of the faculty members' homes, and students moved into a nearby hotel -- where a convention center was turned into temporary classrooms.
Collins showed students how the flood walls protecting neighborhoods cracked and how storm water broke through the levees.
"That shows you the power of water," he told the students.
Collins also explained how more poor people lived in the lower ninth ward, because housing was cheaper at the expense of being more susceptible to disaster.
And he explained the important cultural history of the port city: "Some people say it's a European city with African and Caribbean influences that just happens to be in this country."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or firstname.lastname@example.org.