Jefferson Award Winner Leads Elementary Technology ClassesBy Sharon Chin

SUNNYVALE (KPIX 5) An energetic volunteer has been helping a Sunnyvale school give many of its students their first taste of technology.

Pierre Cintra has no children at Lakewood Elementary School in Sunnyvale. But on campus, he’s known as a volunteer with a big heart.

Students program robots using blocks and a flashlight. First grader Maria Andrade Vargas is amazed.

“It can do what we tell it to do,” she said.

Cintra started the after-school robotics club at Lakewood.

“I love technology,” he explained. “I like to get these kids also passionate about it.”

Cintra, an engineer and Google payroll manager, volunteers at Lakewood, with several co-workers. Google allows them to spend twenty work hours a year giving back to their community.

In less than a year, he and the team have organized a Tech Fair, hosted a field trip to their office, and fundraised among their colleagues to build the school’s new Idea Lab.

On a recent day, they introduced the kids to virtual reality, showing them images from a smart phone tucked inside the cardboard glasses.

Principal Pam Cheng says Cintra stands out among the other volunteers. For example, after the school completed the Hour of Code introduction to programming, he had an idea:

“Pierre’s this person who says, ‘Hour of Code?’ The kids are good at this. They need more opportunities,'” she reported.

He started an after-school club in March, called CS First. So once a week, students learn coding, based on an MIT program.

“It’s just really fun,” said fourth grader Patrick Duarte, working on his sequence of a cat choosing between a forest… or a bedroom.

Cintra also built the robotics curriculum for the younger kids.  One day, when someone asked about his dream job, Cintra had an epiphany.

“Well, my dream job would be to teach technology to kids,” he remembered thinking. “Wait! Hang on! I already have that job, as a volunteer job. So that’s what I love.”

So for creating opportunities for Lakewood students to learn technology, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Pierre Cintra.