Empowering Communities with Technology, One Family at a Time

May 18, 2017

Purple Mai‘a Kumu Bill Evangelista teaches at ‘Ohana Learning Day in Nānākuli.
Credit Ku‘uwehi Hiraishi

A local non-profit is bringing families together with technology. For the tech education organization Purple Maiʻa, you’re never too young or too old to learn to code. HPR's Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi reports.

Gavin Chun was a little concerned about how much time his 13-year-old son Aidan was spending in front of a computer screen and on his smart phone.

"We were worried that he wasn’t focusing on his school."

Aidan is a seventh grader at Jarrett Middle School in Pālolo. For the past two years, he’s been taking after-school classes in coding from the technology education non-profit Purple Maiʻa.

Today, Aidan brought his dad and grandmother Gracie Matsuo to ʻOhana Learning Day at the Nānākuli Boys & Girls Club to give them an idea of what heʻs been learning. Here's grandma.

"It’s fun but its a challenge and I get nervous. But I’m glad I’m sitting next to him."

Grandma is learning JavaScript, a coding language used to design games in a program called Phaser.

Gracie Matsuo learning to code alongside her grandson 13-year-old Aidan Chun
Credit Bill Evangelista / Purple Mai‘a

In a classroom of a dozen students transferring code from the projector screen to their purple laptops, grandma stands out. But Aidan is there to guide her.

"She’s learning but otherwise good for a beginner."

Aidan also checked on his dad's work.

"I started to learn what Purple Maiʻa was and what he was actually doing and I was like...Wow! It’s incredible."

"The parents get to open their eyes to the importance of technology, coding, what lies behind the applications and things that they’re consuming."

That’s Forest Frizzell, a board member for Purple Maiʻa. The organization focuses on transforming kids from consumers of technology to producers.

4-year-old Noa Enos learns Scratch, a computer programming language for younger children.
Credit Ku‘uwehi Hiraishi

In another classroom, a much younger crowd of students assembled. That’s where we found Kamu Enos and his 4-year-old son Noa.

Perched in his chair Noa is barely tall enough to reach over the desk at his laptop. He is learning Scratch, a programming language designed for younger children. For Noa, this seems much simpler than computer programming.

"I'm just making the cat move wherever I want. I'm just pressing all the buttons."

Exposing children to technology drives Purple Maiʻa, and the virtual reality demonstration was quite possibly the most engaging.

"I got to shoot spaceships and get upgrades. It was super fun."

13-year-old Tai Beck a student at the Hui Mālama Learning Center in Kahului has been with Purple Maiʻa since the organization expanded to Maui last year.

"It was so real. Virtual reality is like a thousand times above Scratch or anything like that."

13-year-old Tai Beck (left) and 11-year-old Phoenix Maui (right) flew in from Kahului for Purple Mai‘a's ‘Ohana Learning Day.
Credit Bill Evangelista / Purple Mai‘a

Innovation and problem-solving are highly encouraged, says Donavan Kealoha, co-founder of Purple Maiʻa.

"It was cool, you know? The kind of ideas that they came up with, the kind of issues that they were dealing with – bullying, preserving grandma’s recipes. People are getting funded and companies are being built for similar kinds of ideas. So you never know."

Families gathered in Nānākuli for Purple Mai‘a's ‘Ohana Learning Day.
Credit Ku‘uwehi Hiraishi

And the way these kids decide to use technology is ultimately a reflection of the experiences they have in their communities.

"We teach technology for the purposes of serving community. We equip them with the tools. We ground them in this sort of world view of service and let them figure it out."