NYC Parks ‘SPARX’ Bronx girls’ imaginations

NYC Parks ‘SPARX’ Bronx girls’ imaginations
Photo courtesy of New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

An inventive New York City Park’s program looks to ‘spark’ young Bronx girls’ imaginations and scientific interests through creativity.

SPARX is a free hands-on science, technology, engineering, art and math enrichment program for girls of all abilities, grades six to 12 hosted by NYC Parks Department’s computer resource centers in the borough.

St. James Recreation Center at 2530 Jerome Avenue holds classes on Tuesday and Thursday 2 to 6 p.m. while St. Mary’s Recreation Center at 450 St. Ann’s Avenue holds Wednesday and Friday classes from 2 to 6 p.m.

As part of SPARX’s curriculum, Maeushani Liyanage, NYC SPARX teacher’s assistant, coaches students on the fundamentals of computer coding during Saturday noon to 3 p.m. Girls Who Code classes held at St. Mary’s.

Lara Reid, NYC SPARX director, said the Bronx-based program began at St. Mary’s last July and due to its success was incorporated into St. James.

Reid said her winter session students are enjoying learning code, constructing inventive projects and app building.

One project her students are undertaking is designing futuristic clothing which incorporates working technology and functionality.

“One of the girls created a shirt that can create music by the press of a button,” shared Reid. “I tell my students it’s important to focus on the design first and then come back to figuring out how it will work.”

She explained her students follow a series of steps: ask, imagine, plan, create, test and improve to aid them in their creative process.

Reid said her students have learned to become resourceful problem solvers noting one instance where they created their own version of zipped up headphones.

The young innovators hot glued zippers to their headphones’ cords to prevent them from becoming tangled.

“You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel, you just adjust it sometimes,” said Reid.

In addition to inventing, SPARX students are proficient in coding having completed their exercises and will soon begin using MIT App Inventor.

Brianna Gonzalez, a sixth grader at St. Anselm Parochial School, learned about SPARX from her school friend, Isabella Alvarez who also attends this program.

Gonzalez cited the light up fashion as her favorite SPARX project and enjoys working on her hour long coding activities.

“I really like working on my coding because I want to one day become a computer game designer and I get to learn how to script by doing this,” said Gonzalez.

Alvarez said her favorite project was constructing remote controlled pre-programed robots with infrared sensors and hindrance detectors and having them traverse an obstacle course.

The robots’ sensors allowed them to read and follow black lines while their detectors made them sense obstacles and re-adjust their movement accordingly.

“Technology is very fascinating to me because I like seeing how electrical and mechanical components work together,” said Alvarez.

“SPARX is very cool because I got to meet a whole bunch of new friends here,” said Gonzalez.

To register for SPARX, visit