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Port San Antonio visionary plan connecting kids and adults to more opportunity

San Antonio could hold the keys to become America’s next hi-tech capital, building on its unique past and present.

“San Antonio has done so much over the years in technology that nobody knows about,” explains David Monroe, Chairman of the SAMSAT Museum at Port San Antonio.

Monroe has lived in San Antonio since the early 1970s and has witnessed much of its rich history of innovation.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the very first desktop computer that was ever built. It was built [in San Antonio] and by Computer Terminal Corporation,” explains Monroe.

Monroe worked for that company that eventually became Datapoint building systems for the military, FBI, The White House and beyond. He even started a few side projects of his own.

In fact, Monroe created the first cell phone camera. The first production prototype of it sits in the SAMSAT Museum. To this day, most major cell phone companies have licensed his technology for the very camera phone most people hold in their hands.

He's now taking his passion and knowledge to another level. Just a year ago, he began filling up a new museum, known as SAMSAT and housed at Port San Antonio, with his seemingly endless and priceless collection of STEM related artifacts and, of course, some Tesla Coils.

“I'm hoping they get introduced to science and technology in a way they never have before, and they find they have a knack for and interest in it and then pursue it,” explains Monroe.

He also began testing summer camps for kids that's now morphed into 10 one-week sessions throughout the summer, enabling local students primarily from two San Antonio school districts, Edgewood ISD and South San Antonio ISD to attend free of charge. It's all thanks to a generous donation by Port San Antonio.

“Having hands on learning is a very powerful tool,” explains Monroe

Drue Placette is the Executive Director of SAMSAT and summer camps and works with Monroe to bring it all together for the kids.

“Schools don't have the ability to give them hands-on, interactive experiences like the museum does. The museum has an amazing opportunity where we have a lot of resources, equipment available,” says Placette.

Fox San Antonio got a chance to peak into one camp. They made their shirts with a 3-d printer. Then, they programmed memory cards and put them into an open-faced computer or what’s called a raspberry pi. They, then, played games straight from them.

Sebastian Garcia is a student at one of the camps and explains, “Just turning it into a computer, that was the best thing I learned. It’s kind of unique. I didn't know you can turn it into a computer.”

Placette says, “They get to take home the drones they work on, the raspberry pi they built, the stuff they 3D print.”

There's more though to these summer camps than what’s seen on the surface.

“We’re giving them access to tools and resources to be able to showcase their talent or find areas that are critical to helping our community grow, help people find jobs, and be able to excel,” explains Placette.

The museum and summer camp are just two parts of a four part plan Monroe and Port San Antonio are working on to strengthen STEM education with locals. The third component is transitioning the old Kelly Air Force Base Cafeteria into a makers space. It’s a place where kids, adults, and businesses can learn from the equipment or can construct and try out new technologies.

The fourth component of the education plan would be a world class innovation center or stem arena if funding comes through. It would be a place where, Monroe explains, “Children can have STEM competitions in a really cool sports like atmosphere.”

It would also be for adults and to showcase innovations in San Antonio and beyond. The four part education plan is just the first piece of the larger vision. It's a vision to make San Antonio an epicenter of innovation, not just in Texas or the U.S., but potentially globally according to Port San Antonio CEO Jim Perschbach.

Perschbach explains, “The education component [is most important] in making sure we have the next generation right to do this... making sure that we have the current generation razor sharp on the new skills.

The efforts all roll into job creation. Placette says,”It would be amazing to have a stem community and expand the museum and expand opportunity to help more kids and help more adults be able to find jobs and to see their potential.”

If you would like to contribute to the vision, SAMSAT would love your old tvs, computers, and electronics, and as a non-profit, welcome donations. If you would like to donate or to get involved with the summer camps, email drue placette at info@samsat.org

Don’t miss the next portion of the story airing Thursday, July 12, on Fox News at Nine.

You can also follow Jessica Headley for more exciting stories like this on social media by clicking here on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter.


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