This story originally appeared on KERA News. Audio will be available shortly.
Looking like a brightly colored food truck, Perot’s new mobile museum feeds brains instead of stomachs.
“Wait. Let’s see if we can program it to make a robot,” one excited 12-year-old says as he and others wander through the Perot Museum vehicle.
It’s called the TECH Truck, which stands for Tinker, Engineer, Create and Hack. This vehicle will take little launchable paper rockets, skulls, a scaled-down mammoth skeleton, and laser and 3D printers to distant Dallas and North Texas neighborhoods.
It’s basically a moving classroom and portable lab, according to Teresa Lenling, the Perot’s director of programs.
“The mammoth skeleton is an example of something that we laser cut,” Lenling says. “Those are the types of things we can do out in the community – is have them design puzzles, and then laser-cut them – but also think about the math and the ratio, and look at the science behind how it all works.”
Monyca Beltran, a seventh grader, goes to Village Tech Charter School in Cedar Hill. The 12-year-old is familiar with 3D and laser printers and loves creating stuff herself.
“I like the idea that, instead of the teachers building stuff for us, we get to build like different planets and stuff,” Monyca says.
Mona Charif with Dell says science is the great race, income and class equalizer. Her company gave more than $1 million for this Perot truck and another truck set to roll out next year. Companies like Dell need people skilled in science, technology, engineering, arts and math, or STEAM. Speaking to the crowd at the truck’s launch, Charif said right now, there aren’t enough of these people.
“Our goal is to address the skills gap in STEAM, particularly in underserved communities, to directly help 3 million youth and indirectly support 10 million others to grow and thrive by the year 2020,” Charif says.
This TECH Truck’s expected to hit the road 300 days a year, reaching up to 20,000 kids. Lenling is about as excited as the kids here. She says she wishes something like this were around when she was in school. She graduated with 24 others from tiny Warner High School in South Dakota.
“We didn’t have a museum and we didn’t have access to a lot of things,” Lenling says. “What I looked forward to was the Book Mobile. I would be able to open up the books and look at the National Geographic explorers, and be able to see it and I knew that it was going to be coming to the neighborhood. That sense of excitement and going ‘oh, I have this to look forward to!’”
The Perot Museum turns a new page in outreach efforts when the TECH Truck makes its first trip Oct. 8. It can be booked through the Perot Museum’s website.