"Sprouts in the Community" delivers special tech for special needs

By Warren Volkmann, Editor
HP Developers Portal

When Christopher Huffman heard about HP's Sprouts in the Community program, he was working the night shift in the wafer fabrication lab at the HP Corvallis site. Graveyard shift in the clean room – with its yellow lights and lint-free smocks and masks – is about as far from the hub of Sprout development as an HP employee can get. Yet Huffman instantly knew how he would use a Sprout. He wanted one for the Mighty Oaks Children’s Therapy Center in Albany, Oregon, to help his son, Zacrye, improve his coordination and maybe even his speech.

Unlike his twin sister, Mikaela, Zacrye was born with a host of problems that required surgeries and caused developmental delays. Huffman and his wife, Kristi, found Mighty Oaks and realized that the staff was expert at finding and applying new technologies and techniques to the age old challenges of raising children with special needs.

“Zacrye is 8 years old now and is doing fine, but he is still getting occupational therapy and speech therapy. A Sprout could be very useful for that.”

When Huffman took his idea to Mighty Oaks, he first had to explain what the Sprout is – a dual-screen computer with a projector and a 3D scanner. The projector is mounted above the monitor and projects downward onto a touch-sensitive mat, which serves as the second screen. In its first years on the market, the highly interactive combination has proven useful for education.

To discover innovative uses for this new high-tech combo, HP established the Sprouts in the Community program, inviting employees in seven cities in the United States to scout for schools, non-profits, and community groups that would benefit from a Sprout.

Huffman helped Mighty Oaks prepare their proposal and was elated when they were chosen. He cut short a day of sleep to be present when HP awarded seven Sprouts to Mighty Oaks and six other worthy organizations in Corvallis, Albany and Salem, Oregon.

“In the 20-plus years that I have been an HP employee, this is one of my most exciting and proudest days. It is an honor to be a part of a program that has the possibility of changing lives. I do believe that this tool will change the lives of the little ‘acorns’ that Mighty Oaks serves.”

The other Sprout recipients in the Corvallis area were:

  • The Makers Club at Calapooia Middle School, a public school in Albany
  • The Makerspace at Ashbrook Independent School, a private school in Corvallis
  • Boys & Girls Club of Corvallis
  • Boys & Girls Club of Salem
  • United Way of Benton & Lincoln Counties. The Sprout will be featured in the new Thinker Tinker Trailer, a mobile makerspace that will carry technology to children in rural Oregon.
  • Heartland Humane Society in Salem, for training people.

The Sprout recipients will be able to share their discoveries and breakthroughs through an online forum.

Tracy Lang, the HP program manager who ran the Sprouts in the Community search on the Corvallis site told the winners, “HP employees here are excited to make a personal difference in our community with the help of HP.”