News & Events

Training World Explorers at NHS

03/09/15 at 04:00 PM by Jillian Hanes

Time machines!  Flying cars!  Animal sounds that translate into the English language!  These were just a few of the creative answers that Neighborhood Housing Services’ resident children blurted out when asked what kinds of things they wanted to invent at the World Explorers Workshop they recently attended. 

On February 21st and 28th, 15 kids from NHS’ Davis Park Apartments transformed into amateur scientists under the guidance of David Ultis, owner of the local company, Citizen Scientific Workshop  and a few NHS volunteers.    The children – ranging from 6 to 18 years old and of diverse cultures – built and decorated their own open-source lawn sensors that could sense light, gas, or moisture.  

The first Saturday, Ultis piqued their interest in science when he put a light sensor on a miniature robotic car that was carrying a plant.  The kids got excited when the sensor moved the plant toward the sunlight.  They each decorated their own sensor cover and briefly explored code for the sensors.  The next week, Ultis and the volunteers helped them finish their project – teaching them how to connect the sensors to a circuit.

“It was so cool to see kids of all ages engaged in science!” Emily Pohlman, NHS’ Community Outreach Coordinator said.  She seemed especially excited that this workshop interested two teenagers from the apartment community whom they had not yet been able to reach.  The teens wanted to learn how to sense guitar notes.  Pohlman noted they could get help on that specific project if they came back the following week to the Davis Park Tech Lab class that NHS President, Erin Sorensen teaches each Saturday.

As a GIS Technician, Sorensen understands the need for more science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.  According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, there will be more jobs over the next decade in STEM fields than non-STEM areas, and workers in STEM occupations have garnered 26 percent more in earnings than their counterparts in non-STEM fields.  Yet in 2013, only 44 percent of U.S. high school graduates were ready for college-level math and only 36 percent were ready for college-level science.  With these alarming statistics in mind, Sorensen and Pohlman applied for and were awarded the Whittenberger Foundation grant – allowing them to introduce science to the Davis Park children.

With the remainder of the grant funds, Pohlman hopes to coordinate one more workshop during Spring Break – possibly showcasing 3-D printers.  She intends to apply for more of these opportunities, and provide different projects for the varying age groups to keep them all engaged.

At NHS, we strive to make sure that all of our neighbors have access to educational activities that will propel them to greater career opportunities – regardless of their income level.  Introducing STEM education to kids in low-income families – such as those in Davis Park – is important because it expands their options.  They are able to dream bigger, and perhaps someday make it possible for all of us to have a conversation with our pets!

Want to help?  Our Davis Park Tech Lab needs the following things:

  • WIFI capabilities of our own so we can download more educational programs for our kids
  • Volunteers
  • Financial Support for more computers, software, etc.

For more information about Neighborhood Housing Services’ Resident Services, Tech Lab, or the World Explorer’s Workshop, contact Emily at 258-6229 or

Update as of 3/11/2015, 4:38pm: It was originally noted above that Erin Sorensen is an engineer.  Although she is currently attending engineering school and works in the industry at the designer/technician level, she is not an engineer.  Her official job title is GIS Technician.


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