This summer, Franklin Road Academy hosted its inaugural Summer Innovation Institute, where middle school students from JT Moore, Oliver, and Croft Design were able to incorporate design-thinking practices as they engaged and collaborated during weeklong camps in FRA’s Innovation Lab.
These innovation camps focused on STEM education, and students had the opportunity to conceptualize and create a product over the course of five days using state-of-the-art technology, including 3D printers, laser cutter, computer software programs, robotics equipment and drones.
“These middle school students were able to experience technologies and machines that may not exist in their schools. They were taken through a crash course on equipment they could use and were given the opportunity to go and create whatever they chose,” said Rod Jones, FRA’s Summer Innovation Institute director.
Each week, approximately 10 students were charged with creating a product that would benefit society in some way. All students participated in the design-thinking process, which includes many iterations and prototypes of their products, allowing them to fine tune their solutions quickly and effectively. The weeks concluded with a presentation of students’ work, including final products and a discussion of the process. A teacher from each school also attended the camp to learn and experiment with the technology throughout the week.
“This camp gave us a truly hands-on experience on many different machines and software programs. We got a chance to try to code and drive really cool robots as well. It was great to spend this week with friends and learn so many new and interesting things,” said a J.T. Moore Middle School student.
FRA upper school students served as student teachers during each camp. “We are so glad our students were able to participate because it gave them the opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills as they worked with the younger students on a one-on-one basis,” said Jones. “This whole process teaches the value of failing forward as they worked with multiple iterations of prototypes to develop career-applicable skills.”
The Summer Innovation Institute is an initiative to engage middle school students from Metro Nashville Public Schools as part of a grant FRA was given by the Scarlett Family Foundation to expand STEM education in our community. “We are so thankful to the Scarlett Family Foundation for the opportunity to run this timely and important institute and connect with MNPS schools. Our hope is to grow this model and offer the workshop to several schools throughout the Nashville area over the next three summers with a vision of the institute running in a self-sustaining manner,” said Jones.