Teens complete eight-week inventors program at Stanford

June 10, 2013 5:44:58 PM PDT
Some of our best creativity happens when we're young, and a group at Stanford thinks we need to do something about that. They want to give teenagers the tools they need to become inventors.

It's no laughing matter that trial and error is a great way to learn.

That's why these high schoolers are learning, not in a classroom, but in a state-of-the-art product design lab at Stanford, with things like 3-D printers and laser cutters.

"They actually have to measure and get the measurements right," Stanford Assistant Professor Paulo Blikstein said. "And a lot of them tell us, this was the first time that math was useful.

Prof. Blikstein heads an eight-week program Stanford calls Makers in Residence. It teaches science and math by teaching teenagers how to invent things and build them.

From a shirt that lights your way home, to a pillow that gets you to class on time, the teens are learning to solve problems and learning about themselves.

The program is meant to empower kids, but it also has another goal -- to empower schools and teachers by offering them a completely new way to teach math and science, and proving that it works.

"Unfortunately our public schools, they are more and more doing testing and kind of rote learning, and all kinds of things like that, which are preparing kids for jobs of the 19th century," Prof. Blickstein said.

But in the 21st century, he argues this style of learning should be everywhere. And Stanford is setting out to make that happen -- building "FabLabs" just like this one in public high schools.

They've built four so far, and Blikstein likes what he sees.

"It empowers them in a way that is really surprising for me," he said. "And it's really inspiring."

Even more inspiring, is hearing the teenagers sum up their eight weeks here.

"You basically get to try new things and you get to use technology in a way that allows you to help other people, and I think that's a pretty powerful message, especially to girls," high school senior Vasthy Lamadrid said.


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