A New Model for STEAM: Brooklyn Students Apply Transformative Technology to Global Challenges
Taking design thinking and entrepreneurship outside the classroom.
A food delivery system that provides fresh produce from local farms to low-income households. An at-home unit that uses fungus to decompose single-use plastics. A handheld device for individuals coping with anxiety and depression that provides critical insights to trusted healthcare providers. A solar-powered tablet for off-the-grid learning. These aren’t products on the market (yet), they’re four of the twenty-six projects recently created by students as part of HE³AT—a STEAM and design thinking program for Brooklyn South public high school students.
Since September 2019, students have worked with Newlab and our community of entrepreneurs, engineers, and inventors to develop visions for the future that will impact their communities and the world around them.
“HE³AT is about thinking outside the box and working to push the envelope. To think of innovative and creative ways and reimagine—truly—what teaching and learning can look like in the 21st century.”
—Michael Prayor, Brooklyn South Superintendent
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, students worked on-site at Newlab in teams that brought peers from six local public schools together with Newlab member companies. Designed to get students out of the classroom and into the real world, students gained experience working in teams and applying principles of design thinking and entrepreneurship to healthcare, the environment, education, energy, agriculture, and technology (HE³AT).
“I was really into science for a long time and it [HE³AT] gave me an opportunity to work with a company like [Newlab member company] Terreform ONE and I felt very welcomed there. I loved this experience,” said HE³AT student, Yana Loginskaya.
Shifting the program online
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close in March, the build-a-tower design challenges, 3D printing lessons, and in-person mentoring with startup founders went virtual.
The first order of business: ensuring every student had a device and reliable internet access. Newlab worked with the Department of Education and Microsoft to distribute devices. Learning changed overnight—we reimagined how to foster ideation, collaboration, and project development virtually. With the guidance of Newlab staff, DOE teachers and administrators, and Newlab member mentors, students completed their projects, and in the process, opened our thinking to what a future digital-first STEAM program could be.
The program, hosted by Newlab, the NYC Department of Education, and Microsoft, culminated on June 10, 2020. To celebrate the students’ achievements, we hosted the first annual HE³AT Student Showcase via the Microsoft Teams platform. HE³AT students, teachers, school administrators, Newlab member mentors, and students’ friends and family came together for the occasion. Each of the twenty-six student teams presented their projects to panels of industry experts for feedback and a chance for recognition.
Brooklyn South Superintendent Michael Prayor acknowledged the spirit of the HE³AT program, “[HE³AT] is about thinking outside the box and working to push the envelope. To think of innovative and creative ways and reimagine—truly—what teaching and learning can look like in the 21st century.”
We are proud to announce the award winners of the first annual HE³AT Student Showcase:
A social network connecting experienced farmers to the next generation of farmers and providing access to a marketplace and expert advice.
SES: Saving Endangered Species
SES is an app to provide users with information about endangered species near their location and ways to help curb their extinction.
A water desalination device designed for individual use.
A technology to decompose plastic at home with the use of fungus.
The Social Ball
A therapeutic spheric device to help individuals cope with anxiety and depression while providing critical insights and data to the individual’s therapist.
A solar-powered tablet to educate children in rural communities in India.
A personalized teaching and learning platform for students and teachers.
A discrete gyroscopic device that can be adapted to any bag or backpack to monitor back posture and provide gentle reminders for proper posture.
Greatest Social Impact
Assisting displaced refugees through education learning centers for K-12 students in an effort to provide access to technology and equitable learning programs.
A program providing students in developing countries equal access to higher education.
A food delivery system to provide fresh produce from local farms to low-income households.
A user-friendly device to monitor air conditioning use for homeowners and renters.
As we look ahead, Newlab will work closely with education leaders, students, and entrepreneurs to consider how best to empower students to apply STEAM, design thinking, and the tenants of entrepreneurship to address challenges and contribute to their communities. We’ll also explore the possibilities of virtual learning to reach students far and wide and ensure they are prepared to be active, engaged citizens no matter if their education takes place at school or online.
Thank you to the Thompson Family Foundation and the Brooklyn Community Foundation whose generous support of the HE³AT program has enabled Newlab to provide students with new perspectives around how today’s greatest challenges can be addressed through technology.