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In July, the Moorland Family YMCA at Oak Cliff rolled out its new Mobile Y Tech Hub as part of a mission to provide better access to education and play for youth across the Dallas, Texas, metroplex.

The Tech Hub, which is an interactive STEM lab and gaming truck, is the first-ever Mobile Y for the organization. Keith Vinson, the vice president of operations, said the vehicle’s introduction created a “buzz” in the community since its unveiling this summer.

“We want to peak the curiosity of young minds and help them grow their development in problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, decision-making, leadership and even acceptance of failure but yet, keep trying,” said Vinson. “I was fortunate to guide a team of leaders through serval brainstorming sessions to bake out a concept to how we can go deeper into our communities to reach more young people.”

The inspiration behind the Mobile Y was part of Moorland Family YMCA’S strategic plan “Bold Vision for a Brighter Future.” Vinson said the initiative is intended to provide equitable access to robust programming throughout the community and underserved neighborhoods.

The strategic areas of focus for the Mobile Y are youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Programming is centered on hands-on learning with real world applications to develop a variety of 21st century skills.

“We understand that regardless of the future career path considered by these children, these skills will help them to always be innovative,” said Vinson. “Innovation is what drives our economy. As leaders in the youth development movement, we need to ensure our youth are inspired to be change makers.”

What’s in the Mobile Y Tech Hub?

The Tech Hub is a 28-foot V-Nose trailer with seven 4K TVs powered by a Predator 9500-Watt Super Quiet Inverter Generator.

The following features are also included:

  • Limo-style video game theater.
  • Two AC units.
  • Stadium seating.
  • Five Nintendo Switches with 12 wireless controllers.
  • Four PS5 consoles with four controllers each.
  • 20 video games and a VR system.
  • Each TV has its own speaker bar.
  • Black vinyl limo seating with red accent on the top row.
  • 24 people can sit inside and play at once.
  • Portable access ramp for accessibility purposes.
  • A CAT-7 ethernet hardwire connection.
  • Under-glow lighting that illuminates the area.

Development and the Rec Hub

Vinson said funding for the project primarily came from the MacKenzie Scott Fund. A steering committee decided how to best take the Y into the community with the money. The planning team members consisted of leaders in the areas of sports, communications/social media, community health, childcare and STEM.

“We kicked off September 2021 on a journey of innovation to generate an idea that would transform programming as we know it today,” he said. “We know facilities are not always the answer to growing programming. Our focus for this task was creating a sustainable strategy that will keep up the Y relevant.”

The Tech Hub is only one half of what the Mobile Y will be. A second mobile outreach vehicle called the Rec Hub is expected to arrive in August. That part of the project will focus on providing 90 minutes of organized, flexible play for youth through games like kickball, football, soccer, Kan Jam, Spikeball and more.

Another component of the Rec Hub will be meal distribution to students to ensure they have a nutritious lunch and snack during the summertime.

“We know in Dallas, of the three million Texas children who receive free or reduced school lunches, only 14% access the summer meals program, ranking the state 48 out of 50 in reaching children in need,” said Vinson. “On average, students also only get 26 minutes a day for recess. We figure we can serve over 5000 youth a year through the Mobile Y.”

Future Plans and Final Advice

Both the Tech Hub and Rec Hub will be featured in major community events. Vinson said the Tech Hub has already been in high demand. It’s been in a local parade, day camp and teen camp visits, and esports league play at Y branches.

The Y also received a grant to offer esports at no cost to participants in underserved communities, and the local children’s museum has interest in partnering to host STEM activities.

“The most unique event to date is upcoming where we will have an opportunity to set up the Tech Hub at the WNBA Dallas Wings game at the entryway for the esports night,” he added. “This opportunity will allow us exposure to thousands of families as they enter the arena. It has been incredible to see how the community wants this type of unique programming.”

For other community rec centers considering adding a mobile option, Vinson advised to be intentional with planning events that reach deep into your community.

“Seek to balance your programming with transactional revenue generators and transformational outreach funding,” he said. “If you have a large service area, program by region daily and not across town. Your challenge is to create your vision, develop your plan and don’t delay putting it into action. Communities are waiting for us to come in and establish a solid footprint.

Images courtesy of the Moorland Family YMCA at Oak Cliff.

 

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John Reecer

John Reecer is an assistant editor at Peake Media.

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