Students from Concord Elementary School will race robots they've learned to program at a special event at The Seattle Public Library's South Park Branch, 8604 Eighth Ave. S., at 11 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 21. The public is invited to attend.

Earlier this month, a class of fourth- and fifth-graders from Concord Elementary received training on the basic concepts of computer coding with Juan Rubio, digital media and learning program manager for The Seattle Public Library. 

"Thursday's event will be the grand finale of their instruction," said Rubio. "The 22 students will have the opportunity to race the finch robots inside the South Park Branch." Afterward, the students will also spend time with branch librarians to learn about helpful back-to-school resources at the library, including computers and one-on-one Homework Help. 

On-hand to give brief remarks before the technology demonstration will be The Seattle Public Library's Executive Director and Chief Librarian Marcellus Turner, Concord Elementary School teacher Angela Klaassen, Google's head of external affairs for the Northwest Darcy Nothnagle and Seattle City Councilwoman Lorena González, a former South Park resident. 

The Library's finch program is made possible through a $58,200 grant from Google, The Library currently has 100 finches that it uses in a curriculum that introduces students to computer coding and develops skills in problem-solving and collaboration. This is one of several of the Library's partnerships with Google to increase patron access to technology and digital literacy. 

Google and the Library initially worked together to launch the highly successful Wi-Fi Hotspot program in 2015. Google has contributed more than $300,000 to the Library's Wi-Fi Hotspot lending program. A Library survey revealed that 31 percent of Library patrons who check out the hotspots have no internet at home and 31 percent have incomes under $20,000 a year. The 835 hotspots have circulated over 18,000 times since the lending program began.

Google also has gifted $75,000 to the Library to put laptops and tablets in nine branches. Laptops and tablets will be available at the South Park Branch starting Thursday. Patrons can borrow them for use in the branch for 90 minutes a day. The eight laptops and two tablets will be loaded with the latest software, including Windows 10 and educational resources. 

The eight other branches will receive laptops and tablets starting Oct. 6. Those locations include the Wallingford, Northgate, Capitol Hill, Ballard, Douglass-Truth, Delridge, NewHolly and Columbia branches. 

"The Seattle Public Library is grateful for the generous support from Google that has allowed us to increase the level of technology available to our patrons," said Turner. "Having access to computer technology is critical for thriving in today's digital world, particularly for students, job seekers, immigrants and refugees and the economically disenfranchised." Google has contributed a total of $458,200 in grants to the Library for technology and STEM programming.

Nothnagle said Google is committed to helping bridge the digital divide. "Bringing tech access to the people who need it most is an important part of our mission."

González said The Seattle Public Library is vital to the educational, cultural and economic health of our city. "The Library teaches children to read, helps newcomers to the U.S. become citizens and has resources to help the unemployed find jobs," she said. "The Library is always here to help. We are fortunate Google has partnered with the Library to help everyone succeed in our community."