New Houston lab in Third Ward helping to bridge the 'digital divide'


by Larry Seward / KHOU 11 News

Posted on August 8, 2012 at 5:37 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 8 at 5:40 PM

HOUSTON – They are not in London. However, some local kids are competing in their own version of Olympics behind a computer screen. Organizers said it is helping bridge the digital divide.

It is supposed to challenge 10-year-old minds. But, if you ask Jaden Thibodeaux, timed computer quizzes in geography and animated money only build gold-medal confidence.

"[In] animated money, I’m Carl Lewis good," Thibodeaux said.

He and a team of kids from the Third Ward recently won third-place in Houston’s computer Olympics competition that pits kids against one another in a number of educational games.

"I got second place in states, second place in typing and third place in counting money," said Amaya Cooper, another computer Olympian.

Their skills are sharp, in part, because of strangers like Johnny Molock.

"It’s very important to get these kids going in the right direction learning math and science and everything else," Molock said.

Molock’s group, Bridging the Digital Divide, helped build a lab full of donated computers in the Third Ward’s Project Row Houses.

"My kids, luckily, have three and four computers at the house," Molock said. "But, a lot of economically disadvantaged families don’t have one."

That’s true for most of the kids in the program. However, their instructor, Ifeanyi Okoro, said the lab and competition are changing things.

"It minimized that buffer, that time when children are just staring off into space not doing anything," Okoro said. "It gives them a chance to learn a little bit of education in a game-type setting.  So, it did wonders for us."

It is also helping kids form goals.

"I want to work on like money and stuff or be a scientist," Thibodeaux said. 

It is also giving children a taste of the success computer skills can offer.