Statewide Program Aims to Build Massachusetts’ Next Generation of Creative Engineers
BOSTON, March 17, 2017 /3BL Media/ -- Boston-based non-profit Reynolds Center for Teaching, Learning & Creativity has launched Fab@School MaSTEM, a grant-funded initiative in partnership with United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, which is bringing an innovative STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) program to economically-disadvantaged school children across the Commonwealth.
The Fab@School project aims to tackle the disruption in the STEM studies and career pipeline by introducing more engaging STEM teaching and learning much earlier on in schools. With jobs in the STEM field expected by grow 15% by 2020, the Fab@School consortium sees an exciting opportunity to equip our youth to succeed in tomorrow’s economy.
Reynolds Center’s Co-Founder Paul Reynolds notes, “By creating a statewide innovation cluster model, we feel confident that we can scale Fab@School nationally, and reach our target goal of 17 million low-income students by 2025. If we can do that, we’re sure we’ll help move the STEM studies and career meter in a substantive way.”
Funded by a grant from Cisco Foundation, the Fab@School MaSTEM program is providing schools from Boston to the Berkshires with maker space digital design & fabrication software, hardware, and professional development support. A majority of these participating districts have also been named Gateway Cities by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which are assisted at the state level to advance an aggressive economic development agenda by making long-term investments in education, innovation and infrastructure.
"Fostering curiosity and enthusiasm for STEM learning will help more young people to see themselves working in the jobs of the future," said Michael K. Durkin, president at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. "The Fab@School MaSTEM initiative is bringing together educators, industry professionals, government partners, corporations and community-based organizations to help prepare our students to graduate high school and compete in tomorrow's workforce. That kind of change doesn't happen alone. We applaud the Cisco Foundation for their support of Massachusetts youth."
The Reynolds Center was tasked to create an easy-to-use design & fabrication software application, called Fab@School Maker Studio. Fab@School was developed over the past six years as a research project through a partnership with University of Virginia and a consortium of partners that include Princeton, Smithsonian, SITE, and Hofstra University.
The web-based program allows students to use the engineering design process to imagine, design, print, test and iterate a wide array of objects, including pop-ups, working machines, buildings, boxes and packaging, wind turbines, automata, paper airplanes, speakers, model skateboard parks, and more. While Fab@School Maker Studio prints out to laser cutters and additive layer 3D printers, most teachers and students are using more affordable digital fabricators - more commonly known as scrapbooking machines - which can be easily source at local arts and craft stores.
Over the course of two days (March 7-8), attendees from 31 participating communities across the Massachusetts, gathered for the Fab@School MaSTEM launch event, dubbed the FabMaker Summit. Designed as a hands-on professional development experience, teachers learned to use Fab@School Maker Studio online software tools, and were introduced to flexible curriculum designed to support Massachusetts’s 2016 Science and Technology/Engineering Standards, and Digital Literacy and Computer Science Framework.
At the FabMaker Summit, participating pilot schools and after school programs received, free of charge, the Fab@School Maker Studio digital design & fabrication software, as well as multiple digital fabricator devices, fabrication materials and professional development support provided by FableVision Learning (www.FableVisionLearning.com). Summit attendees also walked away with a FabMaker Summit T-shirt and gift copy of the creativity & engineering storybook Going Places, which the Reynolds Center’s Peter and Paul Reynolds signed and personalized at the event. Educators from Canada and Iran were also present to learn about Fab@School and the MaSTEM initiative.
As part of Fab@School MaSTEM Cadre 1, teachers are being encouraged to stay connected through the Reynolds Center’s VIP Facebook page - where they can share their questions and special needs, as well as their successes, tips, and best-practices. As MaSTEM teachers begin using Fab@School with their students, the Reynolds Center will spotlight their work via its web site and social media.
The Fab@School MaSTEM program grew out of the BoSTEM program, spearheaded by United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, which also includes Boston Public Schools, the City of Boston, Boston After School & Beyond, Citizen Schools, and FableVision/Reynolds Center. The original BoSTEM cluster formed in response to the US2020 challenge put forth by the White House to generate large-scale, innovative solutions to STEM education challenges in the United States. The groups’ collective efforts are aimed at helping close gaps in student learning, and increase career readiness and interest in STEM sector fields. Fab@School MaSTEM has also received support from Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, and area educational institutions, including Mass College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), and Bridgewater State University.
Massachusetts State Representative Paul McMurtry, who is attending the FabMaker Summit, is equally enthusiastic about the initiative, “Fab@School is not only exposing very young students to STEM learning, it’s fostering the kind of creative problem-solvers and original thinkers who are critical to Massachusetts’s future as a leader across industry innovation sectors. This program position the Commonwealth as a leader in the development of next-generation innovators, who will take lead in helping solve a myriad of potentially crippling local, national and global challenges in the decades to come.”
About the Reynolds Center TLC
Based in Boston on the top floor of the Boston Children’s Museum, the Reynolds Center for Teaching, Learning & Creativity (www.ReynoldsTLC.org) is an edtech social change agency - designing, prototyping, and testing more effective ways to foster creativity and 4Cs to cultivate purposeful, creative problem-solvers who will help move the world to a better place. The Reynolds Center bridges traditional silos in education, schools, research, philanthropy, and business to incubate, deploy, test and share innovations in pedagogically progressive uses of educational technology.
About United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley
United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley brings the community together to help improve people's lives and strengthen the neighborhoods in our region. There are thousands of nonprofits and foundations working to target the problems that affect our region. United Way was built on the idea that if we are to make meaningful, lasting change, we have make it easier for these efforts to come together. To make the greatest impact possible, United Way aligns a network of more than 200 independent health and human service under the same set of community goals.
About Cisco CSR
Cisco Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs accelerate global problem solving through our technology and expertise to positively impact people, society, and the planet. Cisco CSR education programs and partnerships improve access to quality education for students worldwide using the combined power of network technology and human collaboration. From the Cisco Networking Academy to mentoring at-risk inner-city students, Cisco is committed to building the workforce of the future with a goal of positively impacting 1 billion people by 2025.
As Cisco’s Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Tae Yoo notes in her recent report Launching a Generation of Problem Solvers, the world urgently needs “to solve complex global challenges it faces that deeply impact our society - from climate change to health and economic challenges.” The world’s future prospects rely on a comprehensive, adaptable skills-to-jobs approach to learning, combined with our collective ability to “harness the power of technology to launch a generation of global problem solvers who innovate like technologists, think like entrepreneurs, and act as social change agents.”