Cutting-edge TechPlayzone hosts open house
RIVERVIEW - More than just a computer-dotted, after-school-care facility, TechPlayzone teaches actual computer programming skills. Students "are making video games using programming languages such as Scratch, Alice and Game Maker," said Deshjuana "Desh" Bagley, creator, owner and chief operating officer of TechPlayzone, 13208 Boyette Road. "Young people are learning about variables, loops and if-then statements and are discovering how to build and program robots so they perform autonomous missions. "LEGOs lead to engineering," she said. "Students engage in hands-on science experiments and then make digital movies using green-screen technologies to share what they've learned." Bagley, also a certified merit badge counselor, has helped Boy Scouts earn badges, pins and belt loops in many subjects: scientist, engineer, communicator, showman, computer and video games, astronomy, inventing and nuclear science.Requirements for the Boy Scouts' new robotics merit badge came out in April, and she already is prepared to help Scouts earn it. Individual Scouts up to 18 years old may attend prescheduled merit badge workshops, and troops may schedule members-only workshops at TechPlayzone, she said. Fees range from $10 to $15 per workshop participant; accompanying adults are admitted free. Bagley, mother of five and a computer science graduate of the University of South Florida, and her husband, Daryl, computer science graduate from Texas A&M University, started TechPlayzone in 2005. It has operated in its current facility since 2006 and was a Brandon Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year finalist in 2008 and 2009. About 120 students participate weekly during the school year and 30 to 40 in summer. The Bagleys' staff and volunteers include Dawniece Tims, a University of Florida graduate; Eric Peterson, head of Newsome High's science department; Hugh Hickman, former physics professor and author; Tyler Bird, Bloomingdale High honors graduate; and UF junior Ashley Morrow. The facility's kids "know they are being groomed to be the inventors, problem-solvers and creators for tomorrow," Desh Bagley said. "TechPlayzone is exceeding the goals our family established when we began the company." TechPlayzone will celebrate its sixth anniversary at an open house from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. There will be free LEGO contests, prizes and refreshments. Students and Scouts may register for robotics merit badge workshops, summer camp and Saturday morning clubs. For information, go to www.techplayzone.com/techplay or call (813) 684-7329.