Ithaca Tech Magic: Interview with Edward “Eddie” Moran

eddie
original image by Marg Hester Photography

Eddie Moran is the Head of I.T. and the Tech & Media Literacy Coordinator at Southside Community Center in the heart of downtown Ithaca, New York. In addition to designing and creating a high tech lab that anyone in the community can reserve to use, Eddie teaches computer literacy courses and “build-your-own-computer” classes. We talked with Eddie to learn more about what he does, how he does it, and why.

IG
How did you become the head of Media Literacy at Southside Community Center?

EM
Originally, I was hired as a Technology Consultant for Southside Community Center. Shortly after my contract was finished, they offered me a position. I was asked to manage the technology within the building along with creating technology programming for the Center.

IG
Where did you get your inspiration for programming?

EM
I initially thought back to my childhood in Brooklyn, N.Y. I remember my mother and her boyfriend maxed out a credit card to buy a computer. But within a few months it broke down and it was too expensive to have repaired. When my mom asked if I could take it to the trash on her way out to work, I asked if I could take a screwdriver to it first. She smiled and said the deal was it had to be gone before she returned and I had to be in one piece. By the time my mother walked through the door I was in one piece, playing pinball on that very computer.

I remember how empowered I felt after repairing that computer and how proud I felt to see the relief on my mother’s face. I then went on to Westinghouse highschool and Upward Bound at Pace University where I grew even more excited about technology. Thanks to the leadership experiences I had with Mr. Robert Izzo at Westinghouse, I gained a new sense of self confidence and pride. I learned about the power of technology equity after joining a program in Upward Bound where we refurbished computers for schools in need. I wanted to replicate that feeling of pride and self confidence through technology equity. So I began exploring different ways I could empower people to use technology.

I started by creating a computer literacy course to teach individuals how to use computers. Then shortly after, with some guidance from the Fingerlakes ReUse Center, I developed a computer building course called “Build-It-N-Keep-It”. It’s geared towards equitable experiential-based learning.

In the course, participants learn how to build their own computer utilizing e-waste from Cornell University and community donations. Each participant keeps both the computer they worked on along with the tool kit.

IG
Wow. That’s great. So, what’s the next step?

EM
On the success of that course, I met with several grantors to look for ways to solidify funding for higher level equitable tech skills to the community, such as video editing, 3D modeling, and digital photography. So by April 2016 my students and I will be building a high powered computers at Southside Community Center. The capabilities of these new machines hopefully allows us to teach App development, 3D Animations and even Video Game Design.

IG
Very cool. So tell us, what were some of the greatest obstacles you faced in getting started?

EM
One of the greatest obstacles I faced was creating programming without a budget. This taught me the importance of community.Thanks to the Alan Heiman and the Cornell Computer ReUse Association, we were able to refurbish our computer lab. Hundreds of people have benefited from their donations, many now proud computer owners as well.

Another obstacle I had to reckon with was my concept of what I could accomplish. This opportunity required a lot of writing and I was never a strong writer. I often felt discouraged applying for any kind of scholarships or programs because of the writing component, but knew I needed to learn. I reached out to Fingerlakes ReUse Center to assist me with writing a syllabus for my proposed computer building course, Build-It-N-Keep It. This was a great success. When I was ready to venture into the world of grant writing, I reached out to Fabina Colon, Director of the Multicultural Resource Center. She provided valuable insight into properly constructing a grant proposal. I am sincerely grateful for the great editing and advice she offered.

IG
What would you say to a kid or adult who is curious about technology but doesn’t know where to start?

EM
Any time I don’t know where to start I begin by asking people I know about my interests. I ask what they may know or if they could direct me to someone who might. Another great place to check is the library. It has always been a great resource for knowledge. In this case I would highly recommend coming down to Southside Community Center to check out our computer lab! Feel free to talk tech to me any day. I am passionate about helping educate people in technology. Besides, we will have a brand new computer lab definitely worth visiting. Alternatively you can check out http://www.ssccithaca.org/computer-lab.html