Pinhead Institute’s Executive Director Sarah Holbrooke saw the 2014 film “Underwater Dreams” at the Aspen Ideas Festival. In that movie, a group of high school students from Phoenix — all Hispanic — enter a college-level underwater robotics competition. The kids, in a type of Cinderella story, beat MIT students and win big. Deeply inspired by the film, Holbrooke said “Underwater Dreams” was the fuel for Pinhead Institute, a Smithsonian Affiliate, to establish local robotics teams in the local region.
This Saturday, March 12, Pinhead will show about half of “Underwater Dreams” for a special Smithsonian-sponsored event at its 300 S. Mahoney headquarters.
Each year, the Smithsonian encourages various simultaneous programming for its affiliates. On Saturday, organizations around the U.S. will celebrate “Museum Day Live!,” a free program that emphasizes inviting girls and minorities.
In Telluride, that means all young girls — especially from the Hispanic community — are invited to come view the 12 p.m. feature while eating complimentary pizza. Siblings of girls, both boys and girls of all ages, are also welcome to attend.
Afterward, until 3 p.m., the children will have the opportunity to work with robotics at different levels using Legos.
Parents are free to drop their children off, and Pinhead staff will facilitate the afternoon activities. Holbrooke said Pinhead can accommodate about 40 children. Younger children will have a space for Lego play. Older children will have the opportunity to dive into more advanced material by building a robot and learning some coding and programming to control it.
Holbrooke said events like this are important for the purpose of showing children possibilities for their future learning and careers.
“I want them to see how much they can learn from it,” she said. “They are in control of their future. … Kids can come alive and realize they can accomplish something.”
Free Museum Day Live! is funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant through the Smithsonian. Holbrooke said it’s the first time Pinhead has participated in Museum Day Live!
Pinhead Institute Instructor Claire Carver said Saturday’s event is a great introduction to coding and robotics.
“It’s interesting stuff,” Carver said. “You’re able to control robots using sensors, and through coding and programming, you tell it what you want it to do. It’s a whole new world of Legos — and it’s educational.”
At the completion of Museum Day Live!, Pinhead will send the children who participated home with a Lego set. Holbrooke said that Legos are not just for boys, and that girls’ toys don’t have to be pink.
Pinhead Institute has in the last two years established robotics teams in Telluride, Ridgway, Norwood and Naturita/Nucla. Scholarships are available for girls who would like to participate and have a financial need.
Director of Smithsonian Affiliations Harold Closter said he was delighted that Pinhead has joined museums across America for Saturday’s Museum Day Live.
“The Pinhead Institute, a very unique Smithsonian Affiliate, is an ideal organization for stimulating young minds, inspiring curiosity and opening the doors of knowledge and understanding,” he said. “We appreciate their commitment to serving the Telluride community on this special day, and each day of the year.”