This summer, Island students entering seventh through ninth grades can fight off “brain drain” while getting hands-on experience with 3D printers, laser cutters, and robotics.
From July 16 to August 3, educational nonprofit NYC FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) will offer one-week “maker” courses at their Roosevelt Island STEM Center at 544 Main Street, across from Good Shepherd Plaza.
“This program is a good opportunity for middle school students to learn about 2D and 3D design and fabrication, as well as physical computing, and to have them learn how to use a range of other equipment at the STEM Center,” said FIRST CEO Michael Zigman.
The nonprofit moved into its Main Street space this past winter to give students access to technology and equipment that is often out of reach – especially in lower income areas – as well as teachers experienced in using it. For the past year, they have provided local high school students weekly credit-bearing courses during the school day. The group plans to move to its permanent location in the Tata Innovation Center on the Cornell Campus on September 1.
If accepted to the summer program, teens will have the opportunity to learn 3D design and fabrication at FIRST NYC’s Roosevelt Island STEM center. Photo by FIRST NYC.
Their summer program, which will run from 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., will be divided into three week-long sessions, each with a slightly different focus. Zigman says that, while there is not a preference for Island students, he believes that, because of proximity, they will likely take a larger number of spots.
The first week, entitled From 2D Design to 2D Fabrication, will focus on the use of digital fabrication in the real world. Students will go through the whole design process: brainstorming an idea, sketching their design by hand, then redesigning it using 2D software, and finally fabricating the design using an Epilog laser cutter or vinyl cutter.
According to FIRST, students enrolled for the second week, From 3D Design to 3D Fabrication, will gain a basic understanding of 3D design and fabrication by using professional software to design personalized objects. They will brainstorm, sketch, model, print, and build 3D parts, all while addressing real-world problems.
The final session, Physical Computing, will focus on the tools and techniques that allow computers to interact with the physical world. Students will become familiar with the basics of circuitry, and the principles of programming. They will also be introduced to the Raspberry Pi, a DIY computer, and g Python, a programming language used in scientific and industrial applications. Using these tools, they will build and program interactive projects.
For the past 17 years, NYC FIRST has run robotics programs and competitions across New York City, including the annual Lego League robotics competition. Zigman describes them as one of the largest K-12 STEM education organizations in New York City serving 7,000 students annually.
“We have been running our programs for nearly 20 years in New York City, and we are proud to have our first STEM Center in the city here on Roosevelt Island,” said Zigman.