Photo by Anna Louise Imagery

Newlab’s Education Program has partnered with Pratt Institute’s Consortium for Research and Robotics (CRR) to deliver hands-on frontier tech workshops for local high school students. CRR, located adjacent to Newlab in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, is a functioning research space where college students, small businesses, and industry leaders share the resource of New York City’s largest industrial robot for technology-driven research, incubation of small businesses, and STEM programs that invest in the community.

In April, CRR and Newlab hosted students from Brooklyn Democracy Academy for a hands-on workshop focused on product design and 3D printing. The students spent the four hour session experimenting with Tinkercad 3D modeling software and 3D printers to understand the end-to-end process of designing and prototyping products. Mark Parsons, the Founder and Executive Director of CRR, sat down with us to discuss the value of exposing students to new technologies and giving them the building blocks to pursue STEAM.

1. In STEAM education and workforce development programs we hear a lot about the importance of equipping students with 21st century skills. What does that mean in practice? Why are these skills critical?

With the enormous changes in technology that have occurred in recent decades, the future of work is guaranteed to be completely unlike its recent history. Today, even digital natives like our students need to understand how new products are created and what digital tools they can use to innovate. Learning about and using frontier technologies provides students with the technological foundation, design confidence, and soft skills that encourages adaptability and a sense of belonging in the workplace of tomorrow.

2. What informs CRR’s approach to STEAM education for high schoolers?

Students learn best when they can envision impact and why what they are learning matters to them and the world around them. The context of that learning is essential to student vision. Newlab and CRR are partnering to give students unparalleled experiences with frontier technologies in a thriving research environment.

3. What’s the importance of exposing students to an end-to-end prototyping process and technologies like 3D printing?

Having control over one’s career means being able to create things, or manage the environment of others creating things. Whether they are physical objects, such as motors or buildings, or digital creations like apps, music, or software suites, understanding the concepts of ideation, iteration, prototyping, and fabrication will ensure that these students can lead rather than follow.

4. Can you describe the impact of partnering with Newlab’s education program?

Partnering with Newlab means working with a team that understands where technology is headed and how it’s being used for entrepreneurship today, with an eye on tomorrow.

The students from our partner schools are getting the best of two extraordinary research and technology environments. The co-creation model that we are pioneering is how this generation of technologically capable high school students will work in the new economy; each will bring their skills and vision to a team setting to solve complex problems and have great impact on their communities.

5. How can students apply the skills learned during product design and prototyping workshops outside of the classroom?

We encourage students to see themselves as creative scientists and engineers in their daily lives. Most of the resources available to emerging technologists today are on the internet: tutorials, online clubs, virtual maker spaces, and communities like Thingiverse, Hackaday, GitHub, Adafruit, Linkedin Learning, etc. These resources can be accessed by anyone and are usually joined for personal projects. We hope to provide a means of entry for our students. Once they’ve seen what’s out there, they can do anything they set their minds to.

Newlab’s Education Program makes frontier technologies accessible, immersive and inspiring for students of diverse ages and backgrounds.