Culture, Feature Story

Detroit Lions’ Tight End Luke Willson Surprises Detroit Students at Microsoft Store’s STEM Workshop

Yesterday I visited the Microsoft Store at The Somerset Collection to attend a special program for the New Paradigm College Prep (NPCP) school. Select students from the Detroit-based school attended a special workshop called “Code a Talking Robot with Ohbot”. The workshop is part of Microsoft Store’s five new STEM summer camps. The summer camps equip students with access to real-life applications of the latest technology.

When we first moved here in 2015, Elijah started learning about coding as part of his homeschool computer technology studies. He really loves it! So far, he has learned how to create codes through Khan Academy and he has taken a Minecraft coding class at our homeschool group. After learning more about the coding workshops the Microsoft Store has to offer, we are definitely considering signing up Elijah and Michala for a coding and STEM camp! (STEM stands for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics)

I attended a special STEM workshop for the New Paradigm College Prep students on Wednesday, May 9th at the Microsoft Store.
Ohbot Microsoft Store
Meet Ohbot! Students from the New Paradigm College Prep in Detroit attended a special workshop called “Code a Talking Robot with Ohbot” at the Microsoft Store in Troy, MI.

 

Special Guest Visit with Detroit Lions’ Tight End Luke Willson

The NPCP students also had a special guest join their workshop: Detroit Lions’ Tight End Luke Willson. Luke is new to the Detroit Lions, as he recently signed a one-year contract. He used to play for the Seattle Seahawks.

The students were SO excited when Luke walked into the Microsoft classroom. Honestly, though, it was Luke who was in for a treat because the NPCP students taught the pro football player a thing or two about coding. Luke told me he was impressed with the students’ coding project saying “they were ahead of the game and everyone was shouting out what I was supposed to do so it was pretty cool.”

One specific task the students showed Luke was how to use coding to make the Ohbot talk. Luke asked the students for help inputting a sentence for his Ohbot to say. “We are going to beat Tom Brady,” one student shouted out. Clever! Luke liked the suggestion and typed in the code. Everyone laughed as the Ohbot said in its robotic voice, “Hello. We are going to beat Tom Brady.”

Detroit Lions’ Luke Willson surprised the NPCP students at a STEM workshop held at the Microsoft Store.
Detroit Lions' Tight End Luke Willson
The students were very excited to meet Detroit Lions’ Tight End Luke Willson.

 

Detroit Lions’ Luke Willson Surprises NPCP Students with Special Gift

The surprises just kept on coming because, toward the end of the workshop, Luke surprised the students with a special gift. An Ohbot to use in their classroom! This is such a thoughtful gift for the students because they can continue to work on their Ohbot coding project at school. Their fellow classmates at New Paradigm College Prep will also have the chance to work with the Ohbots.

STEM is an academic concept Luke has a strong interest in for students. For the past three years, he has participated in Hour of Code events at Microsoft Store. I asked Luke why is he so passionate about STEM for young people and he told me this:

“I think you can empower a lot of students and open a lot of doors, especially for youth. Obviously, no one knows where the future’s going, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet at this point to say technology is going to be a huge part of everything we do. I think we’ve seen within the last decade how different everyone’s lives are with the new technology coming out. The ability with STEM and the coding just opens up more doors and gives kids and youth more opportunities when they get older. I think it’s a very cool program.”

Luke also said coding is a little after his time and he wished it was something that would have been available when he was younger. That makes two of us because I remember the internet was first introduced to my high school in 1998! WOW! That was 20 years ago! Technology has definitely come a long way over the years. Young people today are at such a great advantage to take part in STEM workshops like the Microsoft Store’s STEM camps.

Two students get help from a Microsoft Store staff member during their STEM workshop.
A New Paradigm College Prep student works on her coding project at the Microsoft Store at The Somerset Collection.
Ohbot Microsoft Store
Students worked on coding at the Microsoft Store.

Luke enjoyed interacting with the students and learning more about coding. I think the students also had a blast teaching Luke how to code. He even had a little Q&A for the kids, and boy did they have a lot of questions to ask him!

From questions about when did he graduate from college to football questions about specific games and their other favorite players, Luke was very engaging with the kids and enjoyed talking with them.

Detroit Lions' Tight End Luke Willson
Detroit Lions Tight End Luke Willson talks to the NPCP students during a Q&A session.
New Paradigm College Prep Detroit
Two students working together on their code project at the Microsoft Store at The Somerset Collection.
Detroit Lions' Tight End Luke Willson
Detroit Lions’ Tight End Luke Willson hands out gift bags to the New Paradigm College Prep students at the Microsoft Store.

I mean, imagine being younger and when you got home from school telling your family, “Guess what I did today at school? I got to teach a professional football player, from my favorite football team, how to code a talking robot!” That’s a school experience the kids from New Paradigm College Prep will never forget.

Detroit Lions' Tight End Luke Willson
Thank you, Luke Willson, for taking the time to talk with me at the Microsoft Store! Best wishes in the fall!

 

 

All photographs are courtesy of Jennifer Hamra.

 

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