The Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh and Partners Announce WOW CyberBus Project to Boost Digital Literacy in the City of Pittsburgh

Date Published: 
September 14th, 2022

From the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh's press release:

The Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP), The Jerome Bettis Bus Stops Here Foundation and STEM Coding Lab are excited to announce that the WOW (WIFI on Wheels) CyberBus is done and hitting the streets during the week of September 12, 2022! The WOW CyberBus is a mobile classroom equipped with computers and internet access that will allow for remote instruction in STEM education, computer science, financial literacy, and business development for students and parents in HACP communities and the greater Pittsburgh area. 

The CyberBus will make its first appearance at a Back to School Event in Northview Heights (533 Mt. Pleasant Road, Pittsburgh, Rear) on Thursday, September 15, 2022, from 4 to 5 p.m. During this event, media, elected officials, students and parents are invited to check out the CyberBus. 

“This is an opportunity that we’re very grateful for,” said our HACP Executive Director Caster D. Binion. “We set out to bridge the digital divide in 2017 when we formally launched ConnectHomePgh with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the City of Pittsburgh. However, the pandemic has further reinforced the critical need for households of all income levels to have Internet access and this support will allow us to scale up our programs and bring us closer to that goal.” 

HACP has been actively working toward a goal of “bridging the digital divide” for the last decade plus. The Authority’s computer learning program has grown from a few small community-based computer labs, to a full-scale mobile computer lab program launched roughly five years ago in conjunction with HACP’s participation in ConnectHomeUSA and ConnectHomePgh. Our WOW CyberBus represents the continued evolution of HACP’s digital learning initiatives. 

The “New Normal'' requires us to rethink our standard approach to education and our efforts to mitigate the digital divide. HACP envisions the “CyberBus” becoming an educational community asset by providing out-of-school time classes to both students and their parents. The CyberBus’s programming will aid parents in their learning of computer skills, and empower them to be able to help their children become responsible, skilled digital citizens as well. 

“My Bus Stops Here Foundation has worked over the past few years to help close the digital divide for inner-city communities in Pittsburgh. Covid-19 really exposed this issue even more, so I knew we had to do something more impactful, and the CyberBus is the next bus stop on that journey to create an equal opportunity for all,” says Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis who will be in attendance on September 15. 

Mayor Ed Gainey added, “I’d like to thank The HACP, The Bus Stops Here Foundation, and the STEM Coding Lab for their partnership and for supporting our citywide vision to improve digital access and equity. Initiatives like the WOW CyberBus, HACP’s digital programs to teach adults and youth technology train young people in coding and other tech skills. These programs allow individuals to cultivate their technology skills, stay connected, and stay prepared for new opportunities.” 

To supplement programming, STEM Coding Lab will also provide computer science instruction to our youth, ages 5 and up, that highlights the varied career pathways students can take to compete for a computer science career, as well as the fun, hands-on experiences needed to generate excitement in the profession. Research shows that learning computer programming improves student creativity, mathematical skills, metacognition, spatial skills, and reasoning skills. HACP believes the CyberBus will help activate the next generation of digitally literate professionals. 

STEM Coding Lab’s Executive Director, Casey Mindlin said “There are over 16,000 available jobs in computer science in Pennsylvania today, carrying an average salary of $89,000 per year. The work of the STEM Coding Lab is rooted in a commitment to preparing our youth, who too frequently learn in under-resourced environments, to compete for those jobs. The CyberBus is a perfect way to carry computer science learning outside the four walls of the classroom and inject it into communities that continue to be harmed, through no fault of their own, by the digital divide.”

The CyberBus will operate weekdays from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and will travel to a different neighborhood each day, especially the neighborhoods where HACP services its residents. Morning hours (10 a.m. – noon) will be reserved for parents who want to learn or hone their computer skills, work on their GEDs or learn how to start their own business. Staff and volunteers will be there to assist them in meeting their needs. The WOW CyberBus anticipates serving 5-8 parents each day or approximately 25-40 per week. Afternoons will be reserved for students. Each day, two afternoon computer programming classes will be taught; each class will serve 10-15 students daily or approximately 100-150 per week. 

The WOW CyberBus has been made possible by generous grants from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, CNX Foundation and additional support provided through the City of Pittsburgh Mayor’s office and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Read HACP's press release.

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