Tech and Space Camp: ZUMIX Summer Radio Workshop

This blog post summarizes Mariel’s summer 2017 Priscilla Gray King Public Service Fellowship. It was originally posted on the blog of her community partner, ZUMIX, a youth development organization in East Boston.

A lot of different motivations bring people through the old firehouse at ZUMIX. Parents bring their kids for a robust after school education; young-at-heart community members drop in to broadcast from the radio station; youth go in to learn, yes, but also to be young people. And that sometimes implies that, when you are given the power to choose the theme for the summer programs, you decide it is all going to be about space camp.

What brought Mariel through those doors this summer is the long-standing question of how we can use our existing windows into youth’s lives to promote critical thinking about the technologies in their everyday lives. What brings Brittany is the feeling of exploration that happens everyday in the radio studio, which she imagines to be similar to what Armstrong felt on the moon. But the beautiful thing about youth development is that it’s not about one or two forces dictating the path.

Some think that creating educational experiences is about choosing the wackiest ice breaker and pushing people through the right number of post-it brainstorms. But really, curriculum building is closer to juggling, pulling a vast number of elements into a symphony; facilitating is about encouraging a process of group thinking and learning process that fits within a larger pathway.



Youth media literacy curriculum work tends to juggle three main components: technical skills, conceptual and analytical skills, and collaborative skills. In terms of ZUMIX radio workshops, the technical part involves learning the ins and outs of a radio studio, the software, the ZOOM recorder, and then the radio formats; conceptually, it’s about developing a grasp of the topic of choice — in our case, inner and outer space, and the technologies connecting them — and the ability to communicate those themes to each other and an audience; collaboratively, our youth practiced ways of working together to make a unified show, exploring the space camp theme selected by the ZUMIX Teen Council.

What this meant in practice for our summer radio program with youth, ages 13 to 17:

  • In terms of radio formats, we focused on the vox pop (meaning ‘the voice of the people’ — our link to outer space) to promote understanding of others’ perspectives; radio diaries (one person’s audio documentary of their day — our link to inner space) to promote richer reflections on the topic at stake. To explore the ‘colors’ of radio, we also designed a produced show introduction and sonic IDs.
  • In terms of the topic of analysis, we promoted tech reflection through exercises like ‘A Day in our Musical Lives’, critical discussions of app features like the Snapchat map and Jukedeck, best and worst case scenario exploration, and the interpretation of youth and adult tech perspectives from our ‘Tech Spectrogram’. From these exercises, our youth chose two topics, Snapchat and music technology, as the frames for each of their two radio shows.
  • In terms of radio communications skills, youth set goals for their own learning, through critical listening of their recorded radio work. The goals they determined after the recording of their first show were: improve the natural flow between the inner space and outer space segments, minimize ‘awkward silences’ and dead air, and practice voice tones and volumes.



The broader youth development approach of the program (and ZUMIX as an organization) had an impact on different levels of the process. Our own co-facilitation involved Ana, a 14-year-old MLK intern at ZUMIX, who mastered ice breakers and her own radio production skills to facilitate the process for the group. The improvement of radio work was all based on the group’s own assessment and their own goals. And a lot of the class time was about creating opportunities for listening and talking about the portions of our lives that otherwise would not get discussed.

And then it’s about how all of this fits into a pathway; how this workshop builds on skills that youth have already developed in school and in other ZUMIX programs, and also crafting the steps that follow. We are happy for the launch of The Firehouse — a new daily radio program at ZUMIX, with collaborative themes and music curation, that aims to bridge the gap between the introductory course and independent youth-produced shows.



In the end, helping youth realize their potential and their actuality implies connecting their pathway to a broader community. Youth media literacy work is about learning to communicate with others, from the ability to interview Nate Matias about Snapchat and Alexander Dorsk about music technology, to creating content that addresses community needs.

Despite this juggling of infinite elements, the intro radio program at ZUMIX is about creating empathy for your co-hosts on a radio show, and gratitude for the beautiful window radio provides into our communities. And if as an educator you are wondering about radio as an outlet to see this transformation happen, give it a try — wait until you see their faces when they listen to their own recordings on air.

You can find the curriculum for this program here.

You can also listen to ZUMIX radio, and see some tweets and other photos from the process.

Take a listen to an episode of Intergalactic Intersection!


Exploring Privilege in Guinea

After two full days of business pitches, I sat in a circle of judges, a thick pile of business plans on my lap and discussed which ones were going to be funded by Dare to Innovate. This was Dare to Innovate’s 6th Social Business Pitch Competition and it was the first one since the inaugural one in 2012 that I was able to attend. Back in 2012, when I founded Dare to Innovate, we had $16,000 of seed funds to award to seven entrepreneurs. It was the first pitch competition in the country and nobody was sure what the outcome would be. This year, we had $100,000 of seed funding (thanks to the support of the United Nations) and I knew the entrepreneurs that we chose would leave that competition on a new trajectory; that they would leave with the confidence and resources to change their communities for the better. It was exciting, but it was also a lot of pressure.

This year’s competition was special because in order for a youth to be eligible for our training program and ultimately the competition, they had to have volunteered with the Red Cross during the Ebola epidemic that swept Guinea from 2014-2015. One of the entrepreneurs was a single woman—her husband left her because she volunteered; there was a lot of distrust in communities for everyone and everything involved in the epidemic. They were not only risking their physical lives when they decided to volunteer, but risked being ostracized from their communities in a culture where community is paramount. This was a strong demonstration gratefulness and of confidence in youth who have the fortitude to be “positive deviants”.

Dare to Innovate's 17 new entrepreneurs celebrating their win

Dare to Innovate’s 17 new entrepreneurs celebrating their win

We ended up being able to fund 17 businesses that ranged from education, to agriculture, to small scale manufacturing. All the businesses were run by youth and all of them sought both financial and social returns. For these 17 entrepreneurs, their relationship with Dare to Innovate is just beginning. They will be receiving coaching from our staff as the launch and access to a network to grow. It felt like we were brining 17 new people into a growing family.

As we announced the winners, I was of course, overwhelmed with excitement about what we were enabling, but in the back of my head there was a nagging voice, a voice that often pulls me out of the moment when I am working in West Africa — “Don’t be a white savior”. My thoughts, feelings, identity, and place are all very complicated; tension between what I believe and what I represent. I am a white, upper-middle class, educated American women. I believe that young Africans are 1000% capable of driving their personal development and the development of their continent. But I also know that my skin color, passport, and pedigree give me access to resources that most Africans my age are shut off from. I guess it’s me trying to come to terms with my privilege not just as an individual living in society but as a leader. I do not have an answer to these feelings, but I am open to continue to explore this tension over the summer. For now, what I know for sure is that I enjoy the work that I am doing and that if I want to spend my career doing it, I have some reflecting to do.

To learn more about Dare to Innovate, visit

Waste reduction in Nicaragua


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Spencer will be working in Bluefields, Nicaragua over the summer to scale up a waste reduction system that was piloted in January. The pilot has been functioning to quickly convert organic waste into animal feed and compost. Due to the success, interest has grown in turning the system into a commercial enterprise that would be capable of processing a significant portion of the cities organic waste. Spencer will be working with the current pilot operators to improve the design of the current system so that it can be scaled more easily and cheaply, and also to work with the municipal government and local investors to gain the necessary regulatory and monetary support for constructing the commercial facility.

For more information on the work that was conducted in January, please visit this previous blog.

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Improving the livelihood of tea farmers in China


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Rishi will be spending the summer in Yunnan, China working with Kangti Company to define an export strategy for teas picked by ethnic minority groups in southern Yunnan. Tea farmers in parts of China currently lack the financial and regulatory capacity to export some of the best teas in the world. Exportation represents a tremendous growth opportunity for these farmers and would result in significantly increased living standards. Rishi will work with Chinese regulatory agencies and farmer cooperatives to introduce high-quality loose leaf teas to the artisanal American market in an effort to improve the livelihood of farmers in China.

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Cycling mobility after earthquakes in New Zealand


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Lily Bui will be working in Christchurch, New Zealand, in order to design, develop and deploy a mobile app for that tracks cyclist commutes, which will assess mobility patterns of cyclists after the 2011 earthquake. She will be working with the smart city trust SensingCity and the University of Canterbury.

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CURE International Hospital in Uganda


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This summer, Katelyn will be traveling to Mbale, Uganda to work with CURE International Hospital. CURE is a children’s neurological surgical center that provides lifesaving surgeries to patients suffering from spina bifida, hydrocephalus, brain tumors, and other cranial and neural abnormalities. Katelyn will be providing biomedical technical support by updating many of their current technologies along with providing pre- and post-surgical psychological support to the children and their families.

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Data and capacity building for better health in Togo


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This summer, Julia and Cathy will travel to Togo to work on expanding Hope Through Health’s current data management skills by training staff skills in Microsoft Office. In order to improve the clinic’s monitoring and evaluation techniques, they plan on capacity building through expansion of data analysis skills. To ensure the clinic’s growth, they will develop a sustainable training program for future staff which can be continued in their stead as Hope Through Health undergoes a major expansion program over the next ten years. Additionally, Julia and Cathy will train the clinic’s new IT hire in Commcare, a mobile health platform which involves transitioning from paper-based to computer-based patient records.

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Collaborative problem solving in environmental conflicts in Salt Lake City


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Hannah will spend the summer in Salt Lake City, Utah, working for the Environmental Dispute Resolution Program (EDRP), based at the Wallace Stegner Center in the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah. Over the summer, she will be helping to build capacity for collaborative problem solving of environmental conflicts in Utah and the Intermountain West. She will work on a number of projects, including developing programming for the Utah Forum on Collaboration and investigating opportunities for using collaborative processes to address climate change in Salt Lake City.

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Community-building in Mississippi


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Grant will be working with rural cooperative members across the state of Mississippi regarding the obstacles and exclusions they face in their communities, particularly around issues of economic opportunities, decision-making, and community energy. Grant and his team will provide tools and workshops to educate the community about the cooperative structure and values. The community and organization will work together to develop a strategy for overcoming barriers of exclusion and creating local democratic processes for change.

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Sustainable charcoal in Tanzania


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This summer Fernando will be working with ARTI Energy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. ARTI is an NGO that works to create sustainable charcoal by training farmers to carbonize their agricultural waste; ARTI processes the carbonized waste to make charcoal briquettes. Fernando will be assisting ARTI in creating improved training techniques by documenting current carbonization practices and training methods as well as analyzing samples of char produced by farmers.

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