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Celtics, SNHU help unveil city's newest middle-school tech lab

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 12. 2018 11:09PM
Boston Celtics forward Daniel Theis visits students at Southside Middle School in Manchester during the opening of the new technology lab at the school. Southern New Hampshire University teamed up with the Celtics to sponsor the lab, the fourth of its kind in the city. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER -- When Martin Alisandro headed off to Southside Middle School Monday, the sixth-grader had no idea part of his day would be spent showing a 6-foot-9 NBA forward from Germany how to teach computer coding skills.

Leaning over a laptop in the new computer lab at Southside, Alisandro patiently showed Boston Celtics forward Daniel Theis how to work his way through a coding exercise to move a ball and basketball across the computer screen, ending in a shot.

What was it like teaching a professional basketball player how to take it to the hoop?

“Pretty cool,” said Alisandro. “He’s a good learner.”

Theis dropped by Southside with other representatives from the team and Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) to help open Southside’s new Spartan Innovation Lab. (The school’s sports teams are the Spartans.)

The lab was equipped through a partnership between the Celtics and SNHU, which combined forces to bolster technology at area schools. The lab is the 10th in New Hampshire and Massachusetts to come from the partnership, which supplies computers, furniture, large-screen TVs and other tech gear to school districts.

Theis said learning an NBA offense is easier than learning coding.

“A lot easier,” said Theis. “It was fun for me to learn it, I’ve never done it before. It was fun being here to give the kids the computers and the chance to work with them. I think every kid should know coding today.”

The Southside lab is painted bright green in honor of the Celtics’ contribution, with fresh autographs from Theis and former Boston Celtic Walter McCarty, who was also on hand.

SNHU Chief of Staff Adrian Haugabrook, Mayor Joyce Craig and Ward 9 school board member Art Beaudry added their names to the front wall as well.

The lab is the fourth set up in Queen City schools since 2014. McLaughlin, Hillside and Parkside middle schools all have similar computer labs as a result of the Celtics-SNHU collaboration.

For Southside, the Celtics and SNHU purchased 30 new Chromebooks, 3D and color printers, a wall-mounted 65-inch monitor with Chromecast, and a green screen with lighting. In addition, the Celtics and SNHU have completely made over the look of the classroom with paint, new furniture and wall graphics.

“This is the 10th one and we are so happy to be able to do this at the Southside Middle School,” said Haugabrook. “It’s a great partnership with the Celtics. You saw the looks on the young people’s faces today as they were doing the coding. This is great work.”

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bolgen Vargas said he appreciates the support the district receives from the community.

“Most significantly, it will be our goal that every student in middle school here in Manchester will have the opportunity to take a computer course for credit, which will make us one of the (few) districts that offers this kind of opportunity.”

“It’s really great that we have this in each of our four middle schools and we are so thankful for this support,” said Craig. “A lot of the kids have computers at home, and it’s nice to have the computers at the schools to continue their learning. It provides many new learning opportunities that we would not have had otherwise.”

Southside students on Monday worked at multiple stations on coding exercises for 20 minutes, followed by a group discussion with Theis, Craig, Haugabrook and McCarty.

Kenray Emadamerho, an eighth-grader at Southside, enjoyed his time in the new lab.

“I coded a game, stacking code to move a hand and basketball,” said Emadamerho. “Each step we completed, we went to another level. I picked it up pretty quick.”

Education Technology Celtics/NBA

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