Carlos Espinosa, Director, Trinfo.Cafe

This spring term, Trinfo.Cafe is embarking on two new student-led initiatives.  With the support of the Margaret C. Jacobs Charitable Trust and William Levy ’71, Trinfo is overseeing the developing of a new student-designed program using unmanned aerial vehicles (or drones) to expose a small pilot group of high school students at the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy (HMTCA) to videography on one track and spatial mapping on another.  In addition, Trinfo.Cafe is partnering with a new student club called C3 (the Community Computer Cooperative) on a joint project to distribute laptops to families with children in the Hartford Public School system.

Trinfo.Cafe, the College’s community technology center, has been working for 17 years to bridge the digital divide that separates the campus from the neighborhoods surrounding it.  While Trinfo has evolved over that time to meet the changing needs of the College, community, and the technological landscape, its core mission remains unchanged and these two initiatives illustrate how Trinity students are central to Trinfo’s operations.  Trinity students staff the center into the evenings and weekends, develop and revise adult computer literacy workshops and youth tech-based programs, teach in English and Spanish, and at Trinfo and public schools throughout the neighborhoods surrounding the College.  Trinity students also assist with refurbishing decommissioned Trinity computers which are distributed to adults who complete Trinfo’s introductory set of computer literacy workshops and occasionally to community partners for joint programming.

Currently under development, the drone program will kick-off in September and run throughout the Fall term with two teams of three Trinity students paired to an equal number of high school students from HMTCA.  The Trinity students will act as mentors and tutors throughout the program. From learning the mechanics of how to pilot the drones to the proper rules and etiquette of flying, the program endeavors to create a baseline experience for all the participants before breaking off into their respective program tracks.  The videography track will produce a promotional video of the campus main quad – from the library to the chapel.  The spatial mapping team will develop a virtual campus map of the same space with integrated content for each of the pin locations representing all of the buildings surrounding the main quad.  This content will include text, a voice-over narrating the building and its history by a Trinity student tour guide from the Admissions Office, and a video fly-by taken with the drones.  The products will be displayed on Trinfo’s website, however, the program, after evaluation and revision, will be offered to community partners as part of Trinfo’s array of youth-based technology programs.

The C3 Project is brand new and the students leading that effort are in the early development stages of formulating relationships and determining its goals, but it’s mission is similar to Trinfo’s and bridging the digital divide is central to their program.  The student leaders have determined that while the divide that exists today is centered on how the internet is accessed – home wifi vs cellular access through mobile devices, today’s divide leaves low-income households lacking the traditional tools higher-income households take for granted.  Starting with addressing the hardware gap, the C3 will be working with the Hartford Public School system to distribute refurbished laptops from area businesses large and small to families with children in public schools.  Trinfo will be providing C3 a home base for their refurbishing and distribution operations.  Longer term, C3 is striving to raise funds to help subsidize the in-home internet costs for Hartford families.  This phase is still under development, but with the success of the laptop distribution program, C3 leaders feel confident that they will be able to eventually add the internet access component to their program’s portfolio.

These activities illustrate the variety of student-led partnerships Trinfo has been able to foster as part of its strategic mission to not only bridge the digital divide between the College and surrounding neighborhoods, but to blossom beyond its original mission into a broader community space that links the College and surrounding community to a common mission.