Computer skills are becoming increasingly important in education and the work force. Where does that leave teenagers without access to computers at home? Teen Tech Week was created to address just that question.

Forest Park teens gathered at the Forest Park Public Library each day after school from March 9-15 to celebrate Teen Tech Week, a national initiative designed to ensure that teens have the skills needed to use technology well and with good judgment. 

“It really is a celebration of technology, with a focus on exposing teenagers to it, and also seeing what technology is relevant to them,” said Regina Townsend of the library’s Youth Services Department.

The library’s celebration of Teen Tech Week was kicked off on Sunday, March 9, with the Social Media Showcase workshop, where teens talked and learned about different social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

On Monday, they experimented with creating 8-bit art out of Post-It notes. Participants printed out pictures they wanted to recreate and used a ruler to make a grid to determine how many notes were needed. The project was more difficult than it seemed, they discovered. 

“There’s a lot of math involved in making sure that the squares are right and making sure the grid is right,” observed Ms. Townsend. 

The group’s attempt at making a picture of Batman was unsuccessful, but a picture of Hello Kitty was completed and now hangs on the wall in the teen room.

Tuesday’s Flashback Gaming event attracted more than eighteen teenagers throughout the day to play vintage games. Most gathered around the TV in the teen room to play NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) games such as Punch-Out!!, but there were also teens on the computers and some playing Rock’em Sock’em Robots, a game with two robot boxers controlled mechanically by the player, with the goal being to knock the opposing robot’s head off.

The Virtual College Tour was on Wednesday. Teens who might not have the opportunity to go on a physical college tour took online video tours through colleges they were interested in attending.

Thursday, imaginative teenagers thought up designs for several Rube Goldberg machines, devices specifically designed to accomplish a simple task in an unnecessarily complex way. Their simple tasks included opening a book, pouring a drink, and cooking food in a microwave. 

Possibly the most-eagerly anticipated event was Friday’s After-Hours Laser Tag. After the main library closed, the Youth Services department was transformed into a laser tag (a team game similar to paintball, but using lasers instead of paint) arena. 

Teen Tech Week concluded with the L.A.N. (Local Area Network gaming) party on Saturday, where teens competed at multiplayer games from individual laptops. A local area network is a network that connects computers in a limited area without the use of the Internet. The connection is usually created through connecting cords called Ethernet cables.

Available games included Team Fortress 2, Call of Duty, and Star Wars Battlefront II. 

Going on all throughout the week were the Teen Choice Awards, where the teens could vote on their favorite musician, app, tablet, etc. A ballot box was placed in the Youth Services area. Sometime next week, the winners of the awards will be announced.

Many of the ideas for the week’s events came from the teens themselves, said Townsend, who organized the Teen Tech Week activities. She also said that the TTW theme is usually relevant to the theme of the library’s summer reading program. This summer, the reading focus will be on spy and secret mission stories, which ties into the library’s individual theme for the week, The Matrix.

Teen Tech Week is a nationwide project, started in 2007 and sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA,) a division of the American Library Association. Any library in the country, including school libraries, can participate. The project celebrates technology and promotes awareness of the non-print resources libraries offer, such as computers and audiobooks. Teens who do not have computers at home, and even those who do, can discover through Teen Tech Week that libraries are great places to learn digital literacy skills.

“It’s really to bridge the gap between what teens learn at school, and keep them interested and excited and learning new things,” said Ms. Townsend. “These are skills they can take into jobs. These are skills that, in a fun way, they’ll be able to remember when they go back to school.”