Building Freedom Constellations

In our ongoing collaboration with Performing Statistics, two Eureka students are helping integrate electronics and augmented reality into a mural on the side of CodeVA’s building. We’ve learned so much through this project – not just about creative ways to combine technology, but also the ways that Richmond youth are affected by the juvenile justice system.

One of our priorities was to create an interactive space so that viewers are drawn in to look closely at the mural designed by advocates from Rise for Youth. Each collaged section is personal, and each designer’s own words are recorded and played when someone stands in front of their portrait.

Eureka students at tables full of hardware components

When we think about this year, a huge theme has been people coming forward and calling for change. I think it’s really important that the next generation is heard as well. This mural shares the voices of Richmond’s youth in a way that lifts them into positions of power: they hold their visions of the future in their own hands. One of the themes in the audio that is said over and over is “we’re the future”, and it’s good to remember that and to remind this next generation that they’re powerful.

I asked Jakson about the message in our project – “I know about youth incarceration, and I knew that people (not in real life) would go to juvie. But it’s not something that I thought about.” He added, “Raspberry Pi is really cool. I’ve learned a lot with Blippar and coding. And it’s better to learn all of these new skills for a good cause rather than just for fun.”

Coming together to brainstorm in person has felt extra special for this project. As instructors, Eureka has been offering classes online only this year. “I have to be honest: I really wanted to do a class again. I was socially deprived and I wanted to be involved,” says Zach. “But more importantly, as I learned more about it, it just seemed really important. It’s particularly on time and, as a professional, I have a hard time deciding when to be loud about something, But this project felt like I could really put effort into a thing I care about and allows me to lend a hand in getting this message out.” All of us together were troubleshooting the hardware, the code. We had to learn the augmented reality software and do a lot of brainstorming to see what would work best. Our collaboration led us to make some bold choices, and ultimately helped make a beautiful mural even more interactive.

This mural will be on the side of CodeVA’s building through the end of the year. Stop by and take a look!