Partners have provided over 100 free live and "on demand" experiences—from STEM enrichment to professional development.
As schools and workplaces across the community reduced or halted in-person activities this spring in response tot he COVID-19 pandemic, Port San Antonio worked with area partners to quickly launch LEARN @HOME SA — an online resource on the Port's website.
Over 30,000 visitors accessed the platform within its first three months as they connected with a growing array of dynamic and no-cost online learning experiences offered by educators in the region. This has accelerated the Port's plans to grow a place that connects people with learning opportunities in San Antonio's top advanced fields, including cybersecurity, aerospace, robotics and other applied technologies.
Students based at home learning video game programming skills taught by SAMSAT.
The cornerstone of the effort has been daily online courses developed by the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology (SAMSAT), which is based at the Port. Since March, the museum has offered live online classes every weekday led by local experts and spanning a range of topics geared at kids ages 9 to 18. By early July, more than 2,000 area children had taken part in live courses that include video game design, robotics, telecommunications and space exploration. Those learning experiences will continue through the summer.
"While circumstances changed quickly, our team did not miss a beat to ensure we continued advancing our mission to inspire young people in our community through dynamic learning activities," said museum President and CEO Doug King. "In these last few months, our partnership with the Port team has demonstrated its resiliency and importance. Together, we developed innovative ways to keep our community engaged. in the process, we've kept young people excited about the technologies that are growing in their own backyard. Through our online learning platform, we've continued showing the students that they too can participate in those industries very soon as they focus on their studies."
"SAMSAT's online classes have been such a blessing to my family," said area parent Danielle Bell. "The topics are varied and run the gamut from space to the human body to even photography. Both of my kids are always so excited whenever it is a SAMSAT class day. My son enjoyed them so much that his younger sister now wants to sit in on his classes."
"I learn a lot of cool stuff from the classes," chimed Bell's 10-year-old son Matthew. "It's a great way to relieve the boredom of quarantine and I can't wait to go to SAMSAT once it opens again."
Matthew's eight-year-old sister Mackenzie agreed: "I really love the classes. Thank you so much for doing all of this hard work! I keep attending because I keep learning new stuff."
Among the offerings that can be accessed on LEARN @HOME SA is Boeing’s “Discover Mars” 3D experience.
Another parent, Andy Castillo, saw how SAMSAT's courses sparked eight-year-old son Ethan's curiosity about dinosaurs.
"At first he wasn't excited that we were signing up for classes because he thought he was done with school," noted Castillo. "But after his first class, all he wanted to do was talk about dinosaurs. He would get his dino toys and put them around him while he sat at his little 'work station' to listen in."
"If you would have told me on March 1 that we’d have over 2,000 students in online classes between then and July, I would have mentioned the radical change in direction that would require," said SAMSAT Chief Education Officer Dr. Cliff Zintgraff. "However, we have found that our way of using online delivery to keep our message flowing about STEM education and careers is important to so many things we’re working to accomplish in San Antonio."
As the Port team continues to develop the resource platform, numerous partners in the San Antonio region are providing additional offerings. Organizations as varied as Alamo Colleges, Boeing, Communities in School, CPS Energy, Dynamic Advancement, FIRST in Texas, Girlstart, Love.Marketing, Microsoft, TEDx San Antonio, the Science Mill, and Youth Code Jam / San Antonio Spurs have participated so far, with more joining each week.
Schools and other organizations who wish to partner with LEARN @HOME SA can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Port San Antonio has really been a committed partner connecting our industry to our community,” said Jay Galloway, San Antonio Site Leader for The Boeing Company. “Through its new online platform, the Port has provided us a tremendous new way to inspire kids in the region about the types of careers that are being created right here in our facility at the Port, including engineers, programmers and an array of career paths for aerospace technicians.”
In addition to STEM activities such as Boeing’s 3D experience on a Martian-based science facility, several of the courses help adults improve their professional skills.
“We’re proud to have been among the first to participate in the Port’s online learning community,” said Dr. Kekai Namauu, President of Dynamic Advancement—a Port-based company that specializes in training, certification and testing programs for cybersecurity and other information technology professionals.
“This spring, we were among the first to join forces with the Port in the delivery of online learning, and together we quickly filled a class for a daylong seminar on business software fundamentals for working professionals. We look forward to continuing this collaboration to help people in our community—especially military veterans—develop their talent as they advance in their careers.”
“Connecting people, industries and educators is a fundamental piece of our strategic vision as we continue to grow our innovation campus as a resource for all of San Antonio,” said Port President and CEO Jim Perschbach. “Our new distance learning platform and its success underscores how there are people across our community eager to participate in what we’re building here. What our team and partners have achieved in the last few weeks by providing a wide range of rich online learning experiences is only the latest step as we continue to move forward with ambitious plans that keep connecting people to opportunities.”
Perschbach noted that the Port’s efforts to connect people in the region with technology-focused educational resources will complement in-person activities that will be phased-in as conditions allow. Among them, SAMSAT is preparing for the upcoming school year and will coordinate with districts throughout San Antonio to continue providing and growing innovative hands-on activities in cybersecurity and other key industry sectors. These include a state-of-the-art information security operations center (SOC) simulator launched last fall—allowing students to experience first-hand the skills that are required to secure a power grid or other critical infrastructure against hacking.
Last spring, SAMSAT launched a state-of-the-art cybersecurity simulator to provide area students with hands-on training opportunities. The museum continues to provide information technology learning experiences online and looks forward to re-opening its facility to students as circumstances allow.
The Port’s planned innovation center, with design approaching completion and next steps to be considered soon by the organization’s Board of Directors, will substantially amplify the reach of virtual and in-person educational and training offerings by the Port and educational partners. Several classrooms and a 2,500-seat technology arena would enable the Port to host an array of entertainment and educational events—from esports to large training seminars.
The state-of-the-art facility would also have integrated capabilities to broadcast those functions and connect with thousands of additional people in the region and beyond—further supporting the groundwork and partnerships that the Port began to establish this spring through the Learn @Home SA portal as its initial phase of linking people virtually to an array of locally-based educational opportunities.
The Port’s planned innovation center will include classrooms and a 2,500-seat technology arena that will be able to host multiple training and educational programs of different sizes and targeted to different audiences.
The technology arena at the innovation center will be able to host different types of events. Shown here is an esports competition. The same space can be configured to support training programs, which can also be shared virtually to audiences throughout the country and around the world—furthering the online learning efforts launched this spring through the Port’s new online educational resources platform Learn @Home SA.