Progress continues on Knoxville’s Change Center, aimed at curbing youth violence

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Only two months after last year’s Stop the Violence forum, plans surfaced for a safe place for kids to go to have fun and prevent more lives from turning to violence.

The Change Center isn’t set to open until the end of the year, but there is already some real progress. When WATE 6 On Your Side stopped by recently, a team from Oak Ridge National Lab was just driving up, delivering the makings of a Robotics Room at the Change Center.

Crews guided rolls of carpet designed to look like a football field into one of the large undeveloped spaces on the grounds of the center. One day soon it will be filled with robots and students working on projects similar to the ones at First Robotics competitions in our area every year.

Stop the Violence: A Community Conversation

To make it all happen, it takes volunteers, and we wanted to meet some of the ones there working on the robot plan.

“I like watching the other kids try and work through the problems and get through whatever it is that has been put to them as a challenge,” UT electrical engineering student Jonathan Bueckman said.

Previous story: Knoxville Change Center organizers hope to curb violence

Bueckman is just one of several math whizzes giving their time to set up the robotics room at the Change Center. Karen Cheng is working on her PhD in math education at UT.

“I really like seeing how students get excited about STEM education and engineering,” she said.

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Yet another volunteer is planning a career in aerospace engineering. The group is led by Mark Best, a retired engineer with Boeing.

When asked what he hopes kids at the Change Center will get out of this, Best replied, “They can learn their way to work themselves through problems, basically problem solving. But a lot of the skills they’ll learn through first robotics is something they can actually apply to a job.”

While the team was busy setting up, we got a peek at another newly developed space we didn’t get to see during the announcement of the Change Center last spring. It’s being used as a conference room where executive director Nicole Chandler meets with planning partners and community leaders.

Pastor Daryl Arnold of Overcoming Believers Church where the Change Center will stand says the past year has been one of growth.

“Although the building, the Change Center building, is not completed yet, the concept, the atmosphere, the environment and the community is really starting to change,” he says.

The Change Center is planning to open by the end of 2017, and Chander says groundbreaking will begin “very, very soon.”

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