Tech Playground: How Americans Will Keep Getting Smarter

By Ayori S. 1 Comment

Implicit learning of S²TEAM in context of sports, music and entertainment experiences

It’s more important than ever that we attract and engage all ages of people into technology. Unfortunately the path to tech hasn’t been well paved for most (white Americans males included). The basic education supporting tech in school isn’t nearly as engaging as the commercialized result of tech itself, Netflix, social media, internet memes etc. If you’re a woman, African-American, Latin/Hispanic-American, or challenged by a lower socio economic status in life, congratulations, the road is even more bumpy. But the problem isn’t education itself, the problem is that S²TEAM (Strategy, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) is being taught out of the context of regular life.

S²TEAM represents the idea that Strategy is power, Science is experimentation, Technology is application, Engineering is creation, Art is expression and Math is understanding. — Ayori Selassie

The S²TEAM Social Context Problem

You might already know that there is a S²TEAM gap in America but where most people get it wrong is on knowing why it matters. For God’s sake, please do not tell your children to study strategy, science, technology, engineering, art and math so that they can get “a good job”. The S²TEAM gap is NOT ABOUT GOOD JOBS. The S²TEAM gap is about social progress, economic growth and sustaining life on earth and the galaxies beyond. We don’t need scientists, engineers and artists to figure out who is more likely to buy coke or pepsi and influence them when they are thirsty. We need them to dissect the interdependencies of global markets, DNA and suicide genes, quantum computing, physics, end violence in the world and other far out stuff. Basically, we need everyone to continue getting smarter.

“People keep asking, why are Americans lagging so far behind in S²TEAM? It’s because getting the right exposure and support is hard. It’s hard because S²TEAM lacks the social continuity & context to drive implicit learning experiences.”

~ Ayori Selassie, Creator of Life Model Design & Chairman of Tech Playground

Everything in your life is touched by tech, sadly the value of science & technology is often hidden far beneath the surface of the experiences we know and love. Whether it’s food, shelter, clothing, medicine, sex, music etc., it’s all driven by continuous innovations in technology. Consider the Beyonce concert, the pyrotechnics, the fog machine, lights, digital screens, music video, sounds — all of it, technology. The food you eat? Genetically modified for higher yields, the boxes of treats you buy at Walmart, chemically preserved to prevent spoilage & higher shelf life— it’s all science. The problem is that S²TEAM is abstracted away from these everyday experiences resulting in technology (when you finally are exposed) seeming weird, foreign and complex even when it’s simple and used in ways that have become second nature to you.

Consider the smartphone, you’re probably reading this on one. The mobile device is a perfect embodiment of S²TEAM, but we just think of it as a cool toy to keep us occupied when we’re bored even though it’s one of the most powerful tools known to man. It’s one of the reasons I cannot fathom why 1st graders learn about Christopher Columbus, and don’t learn about Gordon Earle Moore (who predicted that the circuits in computers would continue to get smaller and smaller — Moore’s Law). I digress! The answer to getting people engaged with innovation & technology is simple. De-abstract S²TEAM from everyday life and create opportunities for implicit learning.

Moore’s Law: 2015 mouse brain has been reached

The Power of Implicit Learning

“Implicit learning is the learning of complex information in an incidental manner, without awareness of what has been learned” — Wikipedia

S²TEAM is as American as hip hop and apple pie and must become exciting and celebrated in our cultural lexicon (language). When our communities come together to celebrate art, music and culture at festivals, parades, sporting events, they must always pass by a space dedicated to the technology that supports that sporting, music or cultural experience. We need spaces that expose & explain the S²TEAM behind the main attraction.

When I was young my big brothers would throw parties and eventually concerts and festivals. We always had an innovation space relevant to the times, whether it was remote controlled cars, beat machines, or high end computers. Something was always taken apart, or in-between being put back together. Whatever the experience we were delivering, and regardless of the main attraction, the innovation at it’s center was always on display. This made learning about technology a normal everyday thing and changed my entire life.

The technology itself wasn’t put on a pedal stool, the story of it’s power and output was. The stories helped people understand the technology, and motivated them to use the technology to create. The objective was inspiration, not merely entertainment. I’ve come to believe that’s why many of the people who grew up around us had their lives changed and rose out of the hood. Grammy Award winning musician and Oakland native D’Wayne Wiggins (President of Youth Aid Non-profit), says that his guitar was like his armor and shield, and that music took him all over the world- ironically just like coding did for me. It happened for both of us because we had a community where innovation didn’t lose its context — technology wasn’t abstracted away, and questions and exploration was encouraged and rewarded. We learned our muse first implicitly, and then became motivated to learn it explicitly.

Now that I am an adult, fully engaged in working to inspire the next generation (even as a parent myself), I revisit the ideas of what exactly motivated me to explore tech. It was always the arts. It was the music. The colors. The games. The fun and the play. So I began to engage kids with S²TEAM starting with what’s in it for them — not jobs, but the emotional expression that is reinforced by this generation’s desire for selfies and emojis. Connecting the youth, their parents and families to their muse (music, sports, art, games) and along the way implicitly educating them on the technology that powers it.

The expression part is obvious and comes most commonly in two flavors; music and food (but also expands to sports, art, and games). These things that are both easy and fun to experience and share. So we made an hypothesis; since people are attracted and inspired by music & food, when we create a path where music and food lead to tech, we create the perfect environment for implicit learning and transformation. It’s called the Tech Playground, it’s where you go to “Transform Your Life & Your World”. Our inaugural event was in 2014 at Oakland Drops Beats, we setup a piano made out of fruit with Makey Makey boards and while the parents came to enjoy music and mimosas (or both), the youth made music on fruit and played games with engineers. They learned about circuits, logic and code, built games and played traditional musical instruments too — but can you guess what they remembered the most? Simple things like playing music on the banana piano and turning on lights by completing a circuit with their body. That’s implicit learning. That day, our hypothesis was proven and the Tech Playground was born.

About Tech Playground

Today the Tech Playground is a multi-faceted experience offering the choice to get hands on with emerging technologies (in the space of music, sports, art and food) that can transform your life and your world such as;

  • Artificial Intelligence, data science, code, and boot camps offering tech skills and career growth opportunities.
  • Life Model Design tech to improve everyday life planning & decision making.
  • Think, Don’t Squeeze exhibit which educates the community on applying design thinking principles to solving the problem of street violence, mass shootings, and how to end a holy war.
  • Code Boot Camps & hyperlocal companies and vendors committed to providing growth opportunities to Oakland and other local communities.
  • Networking Opportunities as well as opportunities to connect with genuine and authentic local and world leaders committed to living their life’s purpose and multiplying prosperity in the world.

This years Tech Playground in Oakland is hosted at Taste of Oakland Fest on May 13th at Dunsmuir House. Taste of Oakland Fest is a benefit for Youth Aid Non-profit, supporting alternatives for youth of Oakland to reach their dreams through the arts, music, and tech. All proceeds of the event are donated to charity. We look forward to seeing you there!

After Taste of Oakland Festwe’re packaging it up to make it easy for other sports, music, cultural and entertainment event organizers to replicate the experience, because S²TEAM is the door to a great future for America, and it’s our responsibility to pave the way.

Those interested in hosting, speaking, volunteering or sponsoring Tech Playground activities at Taste of Oakland or at other events are welcome to express their interest via this form.

Thank you for supporting the development of S²TEAM in America.

About the Author: Ayori Selassie is an autodidact, and self-educated purveyor of S²TEAM. Selassie is the creator of Life Model Design methodology, the #ThinkDontSqueeze campaign to end violence in the world, and the #TechPlayground who’s mission is to discover the technologist in everyone through closing the S²TEAM social context gap.

Follow her on twitter via @iayori.

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About the Author

Ayori S.

Ayori is an Oakland, CA native, a mother, entrepreneur and tech professional. She is a self taught software developer since age 11 and first founder at age 16. Currently she is a Senior Solution Engineer at where she's also held roles in Product Management, Business Analysis, and Technical Engineering. Prior to Ayori held engineering roles at large global outfits such as ABB Inc and Schneider Electric. Ayori's list of social contributions include organizing the first ever Hackathon on Black Male Achievement (Startup Weekend Oakland Black Male Achievement), founding Pitch Mixer Entrepreneur Forum (a pre-incubator for entrepreneurs in undeveloped regions), founding the Black Employee Network affinity group at, serving on the Communities Board at the Anita Borg Institute, mentoring Emerging Leaders in the Middle East and Africa for TechWomen (U.S. Department of State initiative started by Secretary of State Hilary R. Clinton), mentoring young African American males for The Hidden Genius Project (which provides black boys with knowledge, skills and support to create technical jobs in the 21st century), Producing/Designing Sid's Day of Discovery (science education android based tablet video game for pre-schoolers) for the Jim Henson Company featuring Sid the Science Kid and helping a long list of Fortune 500 enterprise businesses maintain their competitive differentiation by adopting cloud strategies. Ayori's latest venture, Hugging Yuri focuses on coaching and mentoring women from around the world on leadership and nurturing their lives to build healthy loving families and communities. Hugging Yuri advocates for families to raise their children with an abundant exposure to diverse cultures, science, technology, engineering, math, art and music against all odds. Follow her personal Twitter account @iayori

  • Henry A. McKelvey

    Very good article. I like the part about art, which is important in the foundation of the thought process.