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Home : News : News
NEWS | Feb. 13, 2014

Geekbus visits sixth graders at Lackland ISD

By Mike Joseph JBSA-Lackland Public Affairs

Sixth graders at Lackland Elementary School became the first students in the San Antonio area to use a 37-foot mobile technology education unit when it visited the campus Jan. 29-30.

Operators of the Geekbus, a 21st century high-tech shop-class on wheels, hope to spark students' interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math pathways by giving them an interactive experience.

"It was a motor home used for technology demonstration that we've converted for teaching," said Scott Gray, founder and chairman of the non-profit organization that operates the Geekbus, SASTEMIC (San Antonio Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Connectory).

The bus formerly belonged to Rackspace, a San Antonio-based company that specializes in open-source cloud operating systems. The 80/20 Foundation, established by Rackspace co-founder and chairman Graham Weston, provides a matching grant to fund Geekbus operations.

"I've always loved the idea of Geekbus; now I know it's undoubtedly in the right hands to take the vision to its true potential," Weston told the San Antonio Business Journal.

Aboard the Geekbus are five STEM pathways: Renewable energy, robotics, 3-D printing, video game design and python programming with raspberry pi computers. While on the bus, students discussed emerging technologies and the importance of STEM studies. They were also shown a video that detailed how one organization's use of 3-D printing aided citizens of a war-torn area in Africa. The video enlightened the students on how technology and one person's passion can change the course of many lives.

"Our goal is to expose kids to STEM," Gray said. "It helps them to become critical thinkers and problem solvers."

After the bus tour, small groups of students worked together in a classroom setting where Mark Barnett, SASTEMIC's only paid employee, helped the students design their own game on SASTEMIC computers. They also built controllers out of cardboard and metal tape.

"They were able to play their game (with the controllers they built)," Gray said.

How Lackland Elementary became the Geekbus' first stop was a twist of fate.

Gray had been asked several months ago to serve on the Lackland Independent School District strategic planning committee. Gray happened to sit next to Terry Leija, Lackland Elementary School principal, at a recent planning meeting when he brought up the Geekbus.

"I knew we were getting the bus," Gray said. "I asked her, 'what do you think about us bringing out this really cool bus?' They got so excited about it and that's why we're here."

Gray said the Geekbus programs are geared for about 60 children a day. He thought the size of Lackland's sixth grade would be just right for a test drive.

"We've never done this before; this is our guinea pig run," Gray said. "With STEM pathways, we know to affect a child - for them to really get into it - they have to have at least two or three hours of very hands-on learning."

Patrick Felty, a SASTEMIC board member, said not only can the Geekbus curriculum be tailored for specific education levels, it's like a field trip for the students.

"This reverse field trip aspect is somewhat unique," Felty said. "It's cost effective for the schools and with less risk because you're not taking 30 to 60 kids off campus; we come to you."

More information on the Geekbus and its programs can be found at