Hack for L.A. Returns to Boyle Heights For Computer Science Education Week!
By Lilly Kam on 12/04/2013 @ 08:30 AM
To celebrate Computer Science Education Week's "Hour of Code," the i.am.angel Foundation is turning Boyle Heights into coder central!
Hack for L.A. returns to Boyle Heights on December 7-8 to engage Los Angeles' best coders, technologists, designers, entrepreneurs, and "hacktivists" to come together and design solutions to civic problems, by using technology and app development.
Hack for L.A. has become the largest civic hackathon in Southern California. The inaugural event in June was held as part of the National Day of Civic Hacking, and drew over 400 Angelenos making apps for social good. i.am.angel Foundation served as a sponsor and co-organizer, and continues to support this epic hackathon movement!
The first Hack for L.A. was such a huge hit that organizers decided to put on another event before the end of the year. The timing fit in perfectly with Computer Science Education Week.
This year, Computer Science Education Week (December 9-15) has launched an "Hour of Code" campaign that aims to inspire 10 million students to learn coding. Students around the world will be encouraged to spend one hour coding at their schools or local community centers. Our event in Boyle Heights will be one of many exciting events happening across the globe! In fact, over 20,000 events in over 100 countries have been registered as of this blog post!
Hack for L.A.'s 2-day event will be held at the Variety Boys & Girls Club in Boyle Heights, which was recently renovated into a modern, state-of-the-art facility.
Presenting partners and sponsors include: i.am.angel Foundation, Sprint, tapdn, Cornerstone on Demand, Google's Civic Innovation Team, Demand Media, Socrata, General Assembly, Los Angeles Information Technology Agency, Control Panel LA, Code for LA, New Economy Campaigns, and Variety Boys and Girls Club. The event will feature prized challenges on topics including "Best health and fitness app" and "Best use of LA City data," and a total prize pool valued at more than $15,000!
We can't wait to see Anglenos get their geek on for Computer Science Education Week! Join us to make apps for social good, sign up at www.hackforla.org
will.i.am's L.A. Projects Makeover: Homes to Promote Health
Nov 26, 2013
The musician/philanthropist's newest project for Delos' WELL-Access program provides a healthy makeover for homes.
When will.i.am met Delos co-founder Morad Fareed, he instantly responded to the concept of how homes can promote health.
"I appreciate that Morad took the time to educate me and the i.am.angel Foundation team about how buildings can make people healthier, versus contributing to health problems," says the musician/philanthropist, who decided to bring the Delos concept home to the East L.A. housing project where he was raised.
"I am on a mission to enhance my hometown neighborhood of Boyle Heights, including helping to make Estrada Courts, the public housing project where I grew up, a healthier and more comfortable place to live," he says.
Estrada Courts now provides housing for more than 1,200 residents. Built in 1942-43, the freeway- and factory-adjacent community remains outfitted with lead paint and pipes, contributing to poor air and water quality.
"What we're doing isn't just something for luxury condos," says Delos founder Paul Scialla of the large-scale renovation and modernization, adding that will.i.am's project is just the start of Delos' WELL-Access program, "where we are bringing cleaner air, water and surface coatings to the affordable housing community sector as well."
will.i.am Explores Technology Through Comic Book
Nov 18, 2013
FORTUNE -- In a marriage made at Intel Corp., the Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.i.am has partnered with futurist Brian David Johnson on a new comic book, Wizards & Robots. Both the multi-talented entertainer and the futurist work with Intel (INTC) in different capacities, and it's their introduction there that led to the creative collaboration that has crafted a transmedia take on comics. The prequel to the IDW Publishing graphic novel trilogy, The Hope Algorithm, which is available free through the creators' Tumblr (YHOO) site, made its debut at New York Comic Con last month. The first graphic novel, which features art from Batman: Arkham City artist Adam Archer, launches in March 2014.
"The idea [for Wizards & Robots] came from Brian's work around robotics and my work around science, technology, engineering and mathematics for inner city kids," said the Black Eyed Peas frontman (given name: Will Adams). "I was concerned about the lack of funding we have in education in inner cities, juxtaposed against the advancement in robotics and micro processing."
Adams's living room on Halloween 2011 was the birthplace for this new universe, which focuses on robots from the future that come back and do battle with a group of wizards. What separates this comic from other sci-fi works, besides its creators, is that it's based in reality. "It's based on real robotics and the magic is from quantum physics," said Johnson, who tracks the breakthroughs in modern-day robotics. "We've really started designing robots so they could possibly have emotions. We design them to actually act like and interact with people."
The comic is set in the present day: elements such as how time travel could occur are explained for readers, and there's even a new language created for and included in the story. Adams and Johnson worked together on it outside of Intel to build this universe, which they hope will eventually expand with the help of others. "We wanted to make sure that we gave real contextual details on what the story is about before launching the graphic novel so that anybody else, whether it's film or video games, that wants to collaborate and turn this into different media properties has a greater sense of what our vision is for Wizards & Robots," said Adams.
In fact, one offshoot of the universe has already become reality. New York Comic Con also saw the debut of 200 Kaku robot sculptures. Technology, which is a driving force within the fictional universe, played a key role in bringing the miniature sculptures and the larger-scale replica that was featured at the Intel Comic Con booth to life.
"Four months ago I was emailed a rendering of Kaku, and now he's real," said Adams, referring to the robot historian from the year 3000 that's a central character in the story. "All that creativity and collaboration used to just be in our heads and now it's come to life." Adams refers to the phenomenon of technology democratizing the creative process: "We call it VAVADA, which is Visual, Audio, Virtual to Actual, Digits to Atoms. It's the power of VAVADA right now in society."
In addition to action figures, Adams is excited about the video-game potential for this new universe. He previously worked with Microsoft (MSFT) and Ubisoft (UBSFY) on the Kinect Xbox 360 dance music game, The Black Eyed Peas Experience. "The computational power in today's video games are just amazing," he said. "I grew up with a joystick in my hand. I grew up with Atari 2600. To see the level of intelligence and the types of games and the artificial intelligence that's actually in them, that's just amazing how sophisticated games are now and how you can now physically interact with them like you couldn't before."
Wizards & Robots offers an escape for Adams to relive his childhood, while at the same time helping to shed light on the power of STEM education for kids. He grew up reading traditional comics like Superman, Spider-Man and Batman, and watched cartoons like Transformers, Centurions and Mighty Max. He even appeared as John Wraith in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. "I'm still like a kid," Adams said. "I'm an adult that's been brought up in this society and culture, but my curiosity is still like a kid. That's where this interpretation of merging real science and robotics within a fantastic fantasy world came from."
The secret to Adams's success in multiple business ventures has been the partners he's teamed up with, he says.
"It's all the power of your collaboration and your circle of people that you can potentially collaborate with," said Adams. "It's the same with my hardware like Beats headphones or Intel ultrabooks. I'm happy for that to be a part of an extension of my creativity."
In case it's not completely obvious by this point, Adams is fascinated by technology. He's been involved with organizations like NASA and FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) that push technology forward, while promoting the education of science.
"Computers amplify my ideas and my life," he said. "Being able to spit ideas into a computer to make and compose songs and share them with the world in real-time just fascinated me. It sparked my curiosity to go from writing songs on computers to wanting to learn how to program code on computers. Now I'm taking a computer science course at MIT as a result of my passion for technology."
That passion has also led to a new project for the musician, although he won't go into much detail at the moment. But it does involve two of his loves: robots and music.
"There are some things that I'm dabbling in with other folks that I'm creating with that I want to reveal in 2014, when it comes to machines and composing music," he said. "I'm working on that now, actually."
For now, Adams is going to score the soundtrack for Wizards & Robots with the Prague Philharmonic. The score will fuse computer music with orchestral compositions. He is also working on an app and a hyper-interactive website for the graphic novel. And the future looks bright for this new IP.
Barbican commissions will.i.am for Digital Revolution work
Nov 1, 2013
Black Eyed Peas star will.i.am has been drafted in by the Barbican to design an installation for its upcoming Digital Revolution show.
The musician’s work is set to explore “the interface between analogue and digital music” at next year’s exhibition, which focuses on the transformation of arts through digital technology and also features a selection of video games, from the 1970s through to the current day, which visitors will be able to play.
The show, also showcasing film, art, design and music, will feature work by The Dark Knight Rises director Christopher Nolan.
Curators are planning to create an installation around Nolan’s Inception, the 2010 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, so that visitors can “walk into and feel that you’re inside the film”, which won an Oscar for its visual effects.
New interviews with the British director and current movie Gravity are also set to feature at the exhibition.
“Digital Revolution brings together my passions of arts, music and technology,” said The Voice coach will.i.am.
“It is an honour to be invited by the Barbican to create a work for the exhibition.”
The exhibition will examine the future of digital technology, through artificial intelligence, wearable technologies and 3-D printing.
Barbican project commissioner Neil McConnon said that the show was “aimed at anyone who carries a mobile phone in their pocket”.
Barbican managing director Sir Nicholas Kenyon said that the Barbican needed to become more accessible.
But he said that the venue had enjoyed record success in 2012-13, partly thanks to the London Olympics, with over one million visitors for the first time.
He called for more “proportionality” in public spending, citing the multibillion-pound high speed rail project.
He said: “That investment could still transform our national landscape but in a whole new way.”
He denied that he was calling for the rail plans to be scrapped, but said: “I’m just asking you to think of how the alternatives could benefit the country...we’re looking at the value of investment in arts, education and health and wellbeing. It is a matter of proportionality.”
will.i.am: Coding is the ‘most creative space’ (interview)
Oct 29, 2013
“What’s cooler: music or computer programming?” I asked Will.i.am, one of the founding members of the iconic hip hop band Black Eyed Peas and the “director of creative innovation” at chip giant Intel.
“Coding,” he replied instantly. “By about 10 times. A trillion times. It’s the most creative space.”
Will.i.am has been fascinated by technology for years. He’s made a few strategic early investments, most notably in Twitter. But he does not intend to set up a venture firm, like fellow celeb Ashton Kutcher.
Will.i.am tells me he’s more of an operator than an investor. So he’s learning to code and is traveling the world encouraging kids to follow in his footsteps by learning technical skills. It may come as a surprise to fans that he’s a frequent fixture at MIT, where he checks out the latest wearable computing and robots at the Artificial Intelligence Lab.
His entourage just got a new addition: Lilly Kam, a MIT grad who’s the director of STEM [science, technology engineering and math] at the i.am.angel foundation.
Kam is helping Will.i.am learn to code and is developing programs to support science and math education in schools. The musician told me he also has a traveling tutor from Intel, who helps him build his own apps.
I interviewed the musician, philanthropist, producer, and programming student at the Intel Capital CEO Summit in San Diego. He had just delivered a keynote onstage, where he spoke to a packed crowd of executives about ways to get kids from the projects interested in technology.
VentureBeat: You’re a keen supporter of the nonprofit Code.org. What inspired you to start learning to code?
Will.i.am: It’s 10 times better than music. 1 trillion times. I’m making music based on frequencies. With code, I can create operating systems of my own or apps that allow me to make music.
VentureBeat: How are you learning to program? Are you taking a course?
Will.i.am: One of the deans at MIT suggested that I take a course online. I also have a traveling tutor from Intel. Lilly is an MIT grad who works at my Foundation, i.am.angel, on STEM education. I get to learn right alongside the kids.
VentureBeat: Has it been a struggle for you to convince kids to care about technology?
Will.i.am: Yes. No one has told them why it’s cool. Pop culture isn’t set up that way. Tech companies make an amazing device — but next year, it’s not amazing anymore. Kids see tech as disposable. If you take basketball as an example — last year’s basketball is just the same as this year’s. It’s not disposable. We’re not marketing tech very well to kids.
We need to inform young people that tech is the coolest thing in the world. They have to realize that technology is powerful, cool, and sexy.
VentureBeat: It sounds like tech companies aren’t doing a great job of marketing and branding themselves!
Will.i.am: Yes. Let’s take Red Bull as an example. That energy drink was first used by truck drivers. They marketed it by showing race car drivers and a football team drinking it. They made it seem hip, social, and adventurous. But tech companies are making such antisocial devices.
VentureBeat: Tech has a lot to learn from the entertainment and consumer branding industries.
Will.i.am: Yes. Do you think of Apple as a tech company? They just hired the CEO of Burberry — smart move. Angela [Ahrendts, the former CEO of Burberry] spoke at my conference two years ago, TRANS4M.
VentureBeat: Do you invest? If so, what kind of startups are you looking for?
Will.i.am: Investing is this new Hollywood thing. I invested in Twitter and Tesla kind of early. I didn’t put in a small amount. [Silicon Valley billionaire] Ron Conway sits on the board of my i.am.angel foundation.
I want to do incubation. I want to curate collaborations. I’ll code and bring in a designer, and we’ll create something that doesn’t exist. I want to bring new intellectual property to society, and new consumer electronics platforms. Investing is cool, but I’m more of an operator.
Unveiling the New i.am College Track Center in Boyle Heights
Posted on 10/15/2013 @ 12:44 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: COLLEGE TRACK AND I.AM.ANGEL FOUNDATION UNVEIL STATE OF THE ART AFTER-SCHOOL FACILITY IN BOYLE HEIGHTS
Chinese language, robotics, poetry among many enrichment classes provided to Roosevelt High School students in unique free offering with support from will.i.am’s i.am.angel Foundation, California Endowment, and Chase
Los Angeles, October 15, 2013 -- College Track, a national college completion program that empowers students from underserved communities to reach their dream of a college degree, and will.i.am, President and Founder of the i.am.angel Foundation, unveiled a unique, state of the art after-school facility in the Boyle Heights City Hall today.
At i.am College Track, more than 100 Roosevelt High School students receive academic and mentoring support starting in their freshman year of high school through their college graduation. Participating students have the opportunity to learn a variety of topics including Chinese culture and language, robotics, competitive math, photography, songwriting, spoken word, Chicano studies, advanced vocabulary and literature studies. The after-school program is designed to help students from underserved communities who are motivated to earn a college degree but lack the resources and support they need to do so.
“College Track believes that through compassionate partnerships, dedicated, and comprehensive services, we can have a tremendous impact on a student’s life,” said College Track’s CEO, David Silver. “When we empower our students to earn a college degree, we start a chain-reaction that begins with them but spreads to their classmates, their siblings, and their future children—who will be three times more likely to go to college because their parents did. This ripple effect changes lives, communities, and it will change our world.”
For 16 years, College Track has demonstrated a tremendous record of success and is now active in six cities. More than 90 percent of seniors are admitted to four-year colleges, with 54 percent graduating in six or more years. Eighty-five percent of students are first generation college students.
“My oldest sister is twenty-two and she’s going to community college because she didn’t have anyone to help guide her,” said i.am College Track sophomore, Lucero. “When she heard that I had applied to the program, she encouraged me to take advantage of it because she knew it would make a world of difference, not only for me, but for our entire family.” Lucero’s dream is to graduate from UCLA. She is determined to become a role model for her family and for her community. “I want to change the way everyone thinks about Roosevelt High School, Boyle Heights, and the people who come from here.”
The free program, which launched last year in portable buildings on Roosevelt’s campus, is now located on the completely renovated third floor of the Boyle Heights City Hall, at 2130 East 1st Street. Councilmember José Huizar led the $22 million effort by the City of Los Angeles to renovate and establish the Boyle Heights City Hall.
“Bringing the i.am College Track program to our newly opened Boyle Heights City Hall makes perfect sense,” said Councilmember Huizar.“Our goal is to make sure this City Hall serves all the needs of the Boyle Heights community, and I can think of no greater need than empowering our youth to aspire to and work toward a college education. The i.am College Track program will change lives for the better in this community, and we welcome them to their new home.”
Formerly known as the Chicago Plaza building, Boyle Heights City Hall was once home to the Community Service Organization – a place that mobilized a whole generation of men and women to fight for their rights and produced great leaders like Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and former U.S. Rep. Edward Roybal, the first Mexican-American to be elected to political office.
"The 500 scholars we’re growing to serve will follow in the footsteps of former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Councilmember Huizar, and will.i.am and return to Boyle Heights after college, ready to make incredible change as leaders in this community," declared Site Director, Tina Kim.
According to the 2010 US Census, one-third of Boyle Heights’ residents 25 years old or older have a high school diploma, and only 5 percent of these residents have a college degree. Additionally, close to 50 percent of students from Boyle Heights never complete high school.
“Two years ago when I reached out to Laurene Powell Jobs to bring i.am College Track to my hometown of Boyle Heights, I saw a need to change the culture of education so that every child can succeed and thrive in school,” said will.i.am. “i.am College Track scholars have become the ambassadors of Roosevelt High School and are showing the world what can be achieved when you combine inspiration with opportunity. These students are driving positive transformation in Boyle Heights and will be the leaders and job creators of tomorrow.”
The i.am College Track location was launched at the suggestion of will.i.am, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy and Councilmember José Huizar. It is supported with grants from the i.am.angel Foundation, The California Endowment, the Wasserman Foundation and Chase.
“We are thrilled to be a co-investor and partner in the College Track Program, where young people can reclaim hope, promise, and opportunity,” announced Dr. Robert Ross, President and CEO of the California Endowment.
Chase is College Track’s first corporate sponsor in California and serves as the Lead Corporate Financial Services Partner.
“At Chase, we believe in investing in our future," California Regional Manager Andy Carney said. "We are inspired by these students. They are our future employees and clients. We are excited to work with College Track to help them achieve their goals.”
The Boyle Heights’ i.am College Track location is the sixth site opened by the non-profit. Based in Oakland, College Track also operates programs in East Palo Alto, San Francisco, Oakland, New Orleans and Colorado, serving more than 1,600 students across the country. A student that completes the College Track high school program receives the equivalent of one additional year of high school. College Track’s 50 percent college graduation rate is 2.5 times the national average for low-income students (19.5%).
About College Track College Track is a national college completion program that empowers students from underserved communities to reach their dream of a college degree. Our mission is to close the achievement gap and create college-going cultures for students who are historically and currently underrepresented in higher education. We work closely with our students with after-school programming and college coaching from the summer before ninth grade through college graduation. We currently serve over 1,600 high school and college students in East Palo Alto, Oakland, San Francisco, New Orleans, Colorado, and Los Angeles. Over the last 16 years, more than 90 percent of seniors are admitted to four-year colleges, with 54 percent graduating in six or more years. Eighty-five percent of students are first generation college students.
will.i.am's Comic Book: 'Wizards and Robots' and Science
Oct 15, 2013
Unlike his Black Eyed Peas partner Fergie, Will.i.am didn't use the current sabbatical the pop group is on to have a child. But he did collaborate with Brian David Johnson, a "futurist," to produce a project with kids in mind: a three-part graphic novel called "Wizards and Robots," which will be released in March 2014, that has a special focus on science and technology. The two took to New York Comic Con Friday to promote the trilogy, as well as a special edition prequel called "The Hope Algorithm" made exclusively for the convention.
Will.i.am says "inquisitive dreamers" of all ages will enjoy the science fiction fantasy, but that it's really for children in inner cities, a cause already dear to him with his charity i.am.angel.
"No one has told them that they should collaborate in this world," he tells U.S. News. "An inner city kid is not saying, 'I want to be creative in the world of Comic con. I want to be creative in the world of computer science."
"Wizards and Robots" is about a present day battle between wizards from the past and robots from the future. Will.i.am and Johnson first conceived the project when they filmed an interview together two years ago for Intel's The Tomorrow Project, and decided to root it in as much scientific fact as possible. Johnson works as a futurist at Intel, a role he describes as "figuring out how people act and interact with technology."
"Wouldn't it be awesome if the robots are really going to be based on the work that I was doing? What if we made the magic based on quantum physics?" Johnson says, so the two reached out to scientists – roboticists, social scientists, physicists and quantum theorists – to help design both the robots and the wizards.
"First off they would look at us like we were a little crazy. And then we would explain the world and they would get it," Johnson says. "If you were going to do time travel – and there's problems with time travel, but at the quantum level, at the plank level, you can actually do time travel. What would that look like? If that literally happened right here in this room, what would it look like? And then they would get excited about the possibilities."
Will.i.am says that aside from a few big names, he didn't read many comics as a child, but grew to appreciate the genre once he started visiting comic conventions like New York Comic Con.
"I was just really fascinated by this community – appreciating and respecting it," he says. "That's what led me to buying collectibles and comic books. The love and the appreciation for the community came first."
Meanwhile, Johnson, who has a background writing science fiction, describes himself as a "deep deep geek." Will.i.am and Johnson say that the very fact that they were able to come together for "Wizards and Robots" should be inspiring to others.
"So one of the things about 'Wizards and Robots' is that it can change kids minds in that they can see the future, and see futures that are kind of cool." Johnson says. "But part of it is the collaboration, because even early on one of the things Will.i.am said is that this project never should have happened. It's crazy that you've got a futurist and Will.i.am working together and actually working together seamlessly."