Consortium Research & Robotics’s Consortium Research & Robotics is a profiled program in the Plugging In Report.
Who is served: Black and Latinx students from underserved communities. While the focus is grades 7–12, 4th and 5th graders have also participated in recent programs.
Number of participants: 200; 10–30 per cohort
Location: Out of school: CRR, Brooklyn Navy Yard; Red Hook Initiative, Red Hook. In school: PS 686 Brooklyn School of Inquiry, Bronx School of Inquiry, Dock Street School, Children of Promise, Brooklyn Democracy Academy, and Susan S. McKinney Secondary School of the Arts.
Frequency/Duration: Varies from weekly to monthly. From 3 days per week for 3 weeks in the summer program to 10 one-hour sessions over the course of a semester.
Eligibility Criteria: For state-funded STEP program, eligible students receive free and reduced price lunch, or come from historically underserved communities. For privately funded STEM program, they work directly with schools, which select the participants.
Curriculum: Project-based curriculum focused on using analog and digital tools to create something with scalable, real-world applications. Skills taught: CAD, laser-cutting , 3D printing, robotics, and soft skills including presentation, critical thinking, and how to communicate decision-making.
The largest program consists of 5 modules beginning with a visit to the Consortium and followed by in-school sessions led by a researcher. Students first learn how to approach problem solving before brainstorming ideas for projects with real-world implications; previous groups have created rip-rap to prevent flooding along the Gowanus Canal. Students take an analog approach first, such as graphing, and then learn and transition into using digital tools that allow for scalability, such as 3D CAD software and laser-cutting. During the final session, held at the Consortium, projects are automated; students “can see how the math is a code that the robot can read, and then make big. It’s an amplification of their agency,” said founder Mark Parsons.
Outcomes: Students return to school with a sign about their project, created using Consortium technologies, to present to their peers and faculty.
Partnerships: Pratt, New Lab. Schools: PS 686 Brooklyn School of Inquiry, Bronx School of Inquiry, Dock Street School, Children of Promise. Schools, in partnership with New Lab: Brooklyn Democracy Academy, Red Hook Initiative – Digital Stewards, Brooklyn Democracy Academy, Susan S. McKinney Secondary School of the Arts
Sources of funding: Mixed (some private and public schools and community groups pay for the STEM programs, while other funding comes from NYS Science Technology Entry Program (STEP), for Title I schools)
What makes the program stand out? Across all programs, students learn CAD and a variety of digital manufacturing technologies, as well as “soft skills around the technology.” That combination of hard and soft skills, and the impressive technologies available at the Consortium, make its programs stand out. It’s rare for students to not only see but participate in a functioning industrial space that uses cutting-edge technology. Moreover, students interact with researchers and are exposed to a mix of tech professionals, artists and academics, ultimately giving them a sense of belonging, according to Parsons. “They are proud of their work and feel like this space is a place where they belong and are contributing.”
What do participants need to succeed? A feeling of belonging in a tech-focused, professional space.
What does the organization need? Funding in general, as well as for a full-time STEM program coordinator.