Teens eXploring Technology
Coders on Wheels: TxT in the Bay Area

Coders on Wheels: TxT in the Bay Area

As part of end of the summer activities, Teens eXploring Technology students and staff left Los Angeles early the Monday after Demo Day (August 4, 2014) en route for Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. After reaching San Jose Monday afternoon, TxT’ers and staff were happy to gorge on delicious pizza at the local pizzeria and engage in conversation with IBMers Rafael Coss and Nicolas Morales.

After lunch, the TxT cohort was treated with a tour of IBM’s Silicon Valley campus, which ended with a sure trip highlight: the in-depth interactive session between TxT’ers and 25+ IBMers. During this session, everyone in the room introduced themselves, the IBM’ers ‘- the majority of whom shared similar background with our students – hosted a Q&A exercise; two separate panels of career and intern IBM’ers spoke on topics that resonated with our students, and finally each TxT’er was paired with an IBM’er for an in-depth mentoring session. We thank IBM, for providing such a genuine and involved group to meet with our boys. On the car ride back to the hotel, many students were heard saying that because of this first trip to IBM, their bay area experience was already incredible. Thank you, Rafael, Nicolas and all the IBM’ers for an absolutely compelling experience!

On Tuesday, after breakfast and a dip in the pool, the TxT’er crew headed to the nearby Intel Museum, where they reveled in exhibits displaying Intel’s pioneering efforts in the semiconductor chip sphere, and donned what will perhaps be their future apparel: (Intel) lab gear, complete with booties to cover their shoes.

Later in the day, the group traveled to Stanford University where TxT’ers engaged in an athletically dazzling game of Ultimate Frisbee under the Palo Alto sun, toured the campus, and visited the Stanford University bookstore to survey an impressive selection of books and Stanford adorned merchandise. In the early evening, our young men were greeted by Marco Solis, a TxT alumnus and rising senior at Stanford University, who introduced the group to his 4 classmates who then hosted a student panel for our students. Among questions asked by students were inquiries about major selection, the student panelists’ high school experiences, college highlights, and advice on the Stanford application process. The conversation continued off-campus as a group of our student panelists joined us for delicious Mediterranean wraps at dinner. Many thanks to Marco Solis, and the 4 student panelists who inspired our students to continue to aim high!

Early Wednesday morning, the TxT caravan ventured to San Francisco where the group was able to tour the office responsible for the great communication platform that TxT has used for years: Yammer! After taking in the spacious, accessible, and openly planned Yammer office, students were able to ask Yammer designers and developers a slew of questions on best practices in those disciplines. Many students remarked that it was great to see the faces behind one of their favorite online platforms. Thank you to Yammer for being so welcoming, informative and for the great stickers!

From Yammer, the group split in two for a while and took a San Francisco trolley to Fisherman’s Wharf. One of the groups scarfed down delicious and fresh seafood at one of the waterfront eateries and ventured around the whimsical array of shops on the wharf. Of course, no trip to Fisherman’s Wharf is complete without a stop at the arcade, and this trip was no exception. The easy standout for the TxT’ers in the arcade was airhockey; a game that did not disperse tickets, but was present simply for good old fashioned fun and competition. The puck whizzed and zig-zagged around the air-jet propelled table and satisfyingly clicked in to the buckets when goals were scored, as TxT’ers cheered on during highly competitive bouts.

Thereafter, the group as a whole made the trek up the hill to a quaint and cozy park-side Italian restaurant that has been a mainstay in TxT trips to the Bay Area. Those who managed to find room in their stomachs after lunch (everyone!) feasted on a delicious dish of their choice and enjoyed each other’s company under the now setting sun. Once dinner was finished, a massive game of freeze tag was played, and great skill sets of jungle gym gymnastics were displayed while staff basked in reliving their glory days on the playground. Rounding out Wednesday’s planned activities was a night drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and a visit to the park on the other side of the bridge. TxT’ers stood atop the hill as the lights from the bridge and across the bay showed gloriously and provided a breathtaking view on a windy night.

Thursday was upon us and that meant it was time to make the trip to Google. The TxT cohort toured and took in the visuals displayed on the “rendered in real time” Google Earth screens on campus, and were able to see the illustration of countless bits of information searched on Google all across the world, streaming in different colors to represent the different languages used in conducting the searches. As part of the Google experience, a Googler presented the group with a workshop on Artificial Intelligence and some of the improvements and refinements made in Google’s fact searching programs;  by voice, one was able to ask the Google hardware a question, and through use of algorithms, the program was able to immediately present answers in real-time. After a trip to the Google store, TxT’ers were invited to a buffet style lunch at the world-class, on site Google cafeteria, where a few Googlers joined in at the tables comfortably set outside. Thank you to Google for again offering us a great and unique experience within your doors! Our students left reaffirmed to be the best.

After Google, the TxT group embarked on the highway for the journey back to LA and – before, during, and after a required trip to In-N-Out –  reflected on their 4 day experience, filled with great company site visits, play, learning, swimming, freestyling, laughter, mentorship, good food, life-changing inspiration and memories to last a lifetime. We all can’t wait until next year.

History, Made! A Recap of South Los Angeles Demo Day 2014

History, Made! A Recap of South Los Angeles Demo Day 2014

On Saturday, August 2nd 2014, ten teams formed by South Los Angeles teens stood before a packed event hall filled with family and friends, tech enthusiasts and political leaders and shared with them the incredible products each team built over the course of 15 weeks. On this day, history would be and as the first teen tech startup from South Los Angeles would receive seed funding. The South LA teens had an impressive and varied array of products, but all ten teams shared a singular focus: to engage in a live pitch competition and prove that their product and company was the best, thereby becoming the winner of South Los Angeles Demo Day 2014. (See the recorded live stream of South Los Angeles Demo Day 2014, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8z1aomZRkkI )

After a greeting and opening by Teens eXploring Technology founder, Oscar Menjivar, Jesus Vargas, a Teens eXploring Technology alumnus, two-time Demo Day winner and a rising freshman at Syracuse University, introduced himself as Master of Ceremony, and provided those in attendance with his personal insights and experience and appreciation for the profound impact TxT has had on him.

Also as part of Demo Day, Councilman of the 9th district, Curren Price spoke on the need for students like those in TxT to change the community paradigm and the external perception of South Los Angeles through their pioneering and entrepreneurial efforts.  State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, visited from the California State Capitol in Sacramento, and spoke to the crowd on the merits and successes that Teens eXploring Technology has achieved since the program’s incipiency; the positive regional economic impact that bridging the technological access divide will have, and spoke on his personal desire to lead a statewide effort in maximizing the use of technology and textbook compatible “blended learning” methods, to ensure that 21st century technology skills are meshed with a traditional academic curriculum.

Determining which teams would enjoy 1st, 2nd and 3rd place was a judging panel consisting of Kevin Hossman, Director of User Experience at Rosetta; Sam Brotherton, Software Engineer at Google; Brian Stuart, an Angel Investor; Kevin Winston, CEO of Digital LA; and Una Fox, Vice President of Enterprise Data Management at The Walt Disney Company.

The TxT’ers stood firm and poised as they presented the products that they have been working on for the past 15 weeks and fielded in-depth questions posed by the judging panel. Ultimately, the judges determined that Groupiee - a phone app which does away with the inconvenience and inefficiency of group photos by having all participants in the photo look at one camera, and then shares the photo with all participants – would win 3rd place; Missing Object Miracle (M.O.M.) – a bluetooth driven, Arduino styled hardware (first in TxT history) device that notifies users when they are leaving their home/office/car without an essential item - would win 2nd place; and determined that the 1st place and grand prize winner was Bond – an online platform and application which allows teens to post, review and rank local locations to go on fun and safe dates and meetups with friends, while keeping parents at ease.

History was made on Saturday, August 2nd and we thank everyone – sponsors, political leaders, parents, friends, judges - who supported and made Demo Day 2014 the best yet. South LA is on the move, and is producing the next great minds in technology and entrepreneurship!
Please feel free to contact us with any questions and/or comments you may have about South Los Angeles Demo Day 2014 and the Teens eXploring Technology Program: info@urbantxt.com
See History made at South LA’s Demo Day, via the recorded live stream link from the day:
**Read the ‘Los Angeles Times’ and ‘Our Weekly Los Angeles’ articles on TxT and South Los Angeles Demo Day 2014**:

Los Angeles Times article: 
“Breaking Socioeconomic codes at computer camp” http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-0803-teenage-tech-20140803-story.html

OurWeekly Articles:
“Urban teens set to pitch their tech companies”:http://ourweekly.com/news/2014/jul/31/urban-teens-set-pitch-their-tech-companies/

“Teen Tech Teams vie for Seed Funding”:http://ourweekly.com/news/2014/aug/14/teen-tech-teams-vie-seed-funding

Oscar looks back on his TEDx talk - inspiring teens to become leaders through technology

While at TEDx Embry Riddle I enjoyed seeing how people lit up when I told them about the amazing tech talent we have in South Los Angeles. I was happy to see that most agreed when i would say “We have talent in our backyards and we need to foster it in order to form technology leaders.” I was inspired by those who came up to me during my time at TEDx and said  ”Oscar, we need more young men of color in the technology. They will help us solve the big issues of tomorrow.” 

A main thing that stood out during my time at TEDx was that I was surrounded by great minds and many talented people. Individuals like Fabian Oefner used his lens to helped me look at life from a different lens. He takes pictures of molecules and presents it to the world in a way that inspires us to think how much beauty is around us. I recommend you look at http://fabianoefner.com/ for inspiration.


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Amir, TxT’er and techpreneur in the making, breaks down the Chromebook

Chromebook is a laptop for everyone,according to Google.  In this blog, I will share some of my thoughts about the Google Chromebook, the capabilities of the Chromebooks and it’s Operating System, Chrome OS.  Along the way we’ll discuss how I have used Chromebooks and what I have used them for. To begin, I’ll break down the Chromebook’s pros and cons based on my experience with it.

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Three tips on how to engage teens with coding

Last Sunday, I was at Start Up Weekend Santa Barbara and met several entrepreneurs who were impressed with the work of URBAN Teens Exploring Technology (URBAN TxT). I was congratulated by founders of other start ups for helping create the new generation of tech leaders.  One founder in particular said “So many people say they are teaching kids how to create their own products, but you guys have something to show for. Your kids are so impressive.” In my mind I was thinking, “how cool, they see that teens have a huge potential to change the world.” Another founder said “I am amazed by how you guys keep them engaged through the entire process of creating a product, How do you do it?.” I answered, “we are building a community of learners who love to code.”  Here are three tips on how we engage teens with coding. 


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Changing the World through Technology: Oscar Menjivar at TEDxEmbryRiddle

Oscar gave a TEDx talk a few weeks about discussing how to change the world by building positive communities and inspiring young men of color to be tech leaders through coding. 

Councilmember Curren Price presents City Resolution to URBAN Teens eXploring Technology for efforts to bridge South Los Angeles digital divide

“South LA is ready to lead the efforts of changing the lives of young men of color while setting the tech world on fire,” said Oscar Menjivar, founder of URBAN TxT, while standing next to Councilmember Curren Price inside Los Angeles City Hall. “This City Resolution helps us keep working towards helping our young men of color become successful and not become victims to the streets. Our boys will no longer be part of the 55% who drop out of high school.”

Councilmember Price honored URBAN TxT, the organization’s leadership team, and supporters for the more than 60 teens that have gone through the program. The presentation was held on Friday, November 1st, where Councilmember Curren Price presented Menjivar, his family, friends, and a few of the teens with a City Resolution honoring the work being done through URBAN TxT to expand access to technology in South Los Angeles and to reduce the drop out rate of young men of color.

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Organizational processes and critical thinking key for teens to reach success

At URBAN TxT we know we help our teens develop critical thinking skills because they have to experience project management at an early age - our teens are between the 7th and 11th grade. 

Each teen learns the value of breaking projects and tasks down to their subparts, and figuring out the deadlines for each. This type of work ethic is priceless in college and in the professional world, where you are expected to get your responsibilities done in a timely manner without someone continuously prodding you along and grading you on performance. 

Jesus, a second-year TxT’er and senior in high school, uses tech and what he’s learned from his time with URBAN TxT to keep him on task.


“I use the app Wunderlist to stay on top of my school work,” he said. “I like it because it allows me to create subtasks, so if I need to complete my supplemental essay for a college app by December but I need to have brainstorming sessions, drafts, and edits done before then I can schedule it all.”

“With URBAN TxT I learned to create a system for myself, but it’s a non-traditional system,” added Jesus. “I’ve learned how to have fun, set time for myself, and still do everything I need to get done.”

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Meet Maliik, product manager & 1st year TxT’er

"While at URBAN TxT I learned how to think more critically and the value of going above and beyond. I also learned that the connections you make are more important than the things you get. 

During the coding academy I built up my communication, networking, and public speaking skills, and my confidence.

What I like most about URBAN TxT is the creative freedom we have as TxT’ers, and that the coaches don’t baby us. 

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Councilman Curren Price presents City Resolution to URBAN TxT - Video

On November 1st, 2013, Councilmember Curren Price presented Oscar Menjivar, founder of URBAN TxT, and teens from our program with a City Resolution for our work to bridge the digital divide in South Los Angeles. 

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