PVNet Continues To Lead Tech Learning
• PVNet provides easy access to technology not always found at school programs.
With today’s society focusing more and more on science, technology, engineering and math (the STEM subjects), students are becoming increasingly involved with programs that teach these STEM classes.
One of the most prominent places to learn about anything technological is Palos Verdes on the Net, also known as PVNet, which was founded by Ted Vegvari in 1995.
PVNet is a non-profit organization that provides not only students but community members unlimited access to technology that would be difficult to find elsewhere. With these advanced tools, students, interns and mentors collaborate to research and study numerous complicated projects.
Since PVNet opened, Vegvari estimates that more than 10,000 people have walked through its doors and left learning something new. PVNet is the most advanced center of its kind in the country for middle and high school students. Their accredited STEM program has attracted hundreds of youth people who are interested in technology but do not have the accessibility in their home.
“I founded PVNet to fill the void that exists between current education and the professional industries,” Vegvari said. “PVNet provides access to technology that lets young people gain an understanding of what the world of careers looks like as far as interests. Our program customizes student interests into technological projects and reveals opportunities that may lead to their careers choices. It is important to create special things for people; we are not cookie cutters.”
Vegvari’s entrepreneur background included time in both STEM as well as the art fields. He has always been passionate about audio/visual design, music production and recording. Much of his interests can be seen woven into everything that he does.
His goal for PVNet is to provide the gear that students can use to see what attracts their attention and hopefully that interest will reveal a path for their future.
“You do not know what you are interested in until you get the chance to try many things,” Vegvari said. “If there is one toy in front of you, you are forced to use it but if you have 100 toys you can try them all and find which toy you like the most and perhaps combine several to invent something new and branch out by following your true interests.”
When PVNet was created and established at an operations center at Rancho Palos Verdes City Hall, the intention was to assist the local government and the community at large, including senior citizens, with their computers as well as to create websites for hundreds of local businesses.
After moving to the Promenade on the Peninsula, PVNet began to focus on introducing technology to children of all ages. After outgrowing that space, PVNet has moved to a much larger space in the same mall. PVNet renovated the new space and is preparing for a grand opening to offer summer programs for all ages.
PVNet was founded to be a volunteer-based organization with the goal of providing students a safe haven to grow professionally and prepare for the working world.
Interns are assigned roles and duties and are learn to contribute operations necessary to serve the community as well as help newer interns and students with their projects.
Senior technology intern Chris Heidelberg has been interning at PVNet for four years and has participated in many interesting programs offered by PVNet.
“I grew up on Catalina Island, and there is a limited amount of technology over there,” Heidelberg said. “I could barely use a computer when I come over to Palos Verdes, but no one there teaches you how to use them.
“I came in the 8th grade and I met a person who knew how to program, and I thought that it was really good that he could make games. I wanted to make games, too, so I started learning programing and game development. It was really overwhelming at first, so I started looking for a place where I could get help and learn how to do this and found PVNet, where I began my internship, Heidelberg said.
He quickly acclimated to his surroundings and now knows how to fix and make computers, use EEG headsets and analyze the data, code Java, use solidworks, program in MATLAB, network computers and equipment, use highly sophisticated material, develop software and more.
One of the projects that he worked on was fingerprinting the brain by mapping it with an electroencephalogram (EEG) headset. This device collects data about a subject, which is analyzed by a custom application (whitten by Chris) to create a profile that identifies any individual based on their brain waves, as if it were like a fingerprint.
“My goal has always been to create unique programs using emerging technology to allow students to expand their understanding of what their options are for jobs and careers that will materialize in the near future and provide career longevity.” Vegvari said.
“It is expected that 50 percent or more jobs will disappear In the next 15 years due to AI and robotics, so let’s introduce options and prepare these kids for jobs likely to continue. You can only do that by showing students that there are millions of choices, rather than the few which they hear about at school.”
Heidelberg is currently working with six other people combining artificial intelligence (AI), EEG brainwave data, AI machine learning and the Oculus Rift virtual reality system to determine if artificial intelligence can understand a person’s brain waves and alter their brain state into different emotions.
There are professionals who have Ph.D’s mentoring them along with psychologists who are providing their expertise as well. This project is gaining national attention and it is not the first time that PVNet is doing something on that level.
PVNet has received recognition from the U.S. House of Representatives, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sen. Barbara Boxer and many more.
PVNet is a place where every resource they have is at an individual’s disposal. From 3D printers to laser cutters, virtual reality to brain mapping technology, PVNet offers equipment that a student might have never dreamed of using.
That is the heart of each intern and volunteers goal and the very essence of what PVNet is about.
“It is really great to actually be able to spread your knowledge,” Heidelberg said. “It is like you are contributing to society in a way. Before I came to PVNet I was not the best conversation guy, but talking to people who walk in asking about the program and teaching younger students really helped me actually further my ability to have conversations with people.”
Vegvari has selected Intern Heidelberg to represent PVNet at the NASA Edwards AFB in summer 2019 to work on the Prandtl-D 3C Subscale Glider, which will be deployed for the Mars 2020 mission.