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    Boston Public School Youth Help NASA to Reimagine the Future of Work

    Donald Bell
    Published on - October 10, 2018 by Donald Bell

    Teachers, Inspiration

    Boston Public School youths visit MassRobotics to learn and interact with Pepper from Softbank Robotics

    As NASA celebrates its 60th Anniversary alongside Space Week, we find ourselves exploring the achievements of 12 young students from Boston Public School (BPS). Over the summer, they supported NASA to help them reimagine how their technology could be used to create inventions for the Future of Work. Our workshop collaborator, Mbadika, hosted a challenge in partnership with the City of Boston, to invite young BPS achievers to stand on the shoulders of giants and explore NASA patents obtained throughout its 60 years.

    With this being one small step for the young achievers, we ought to pay our respects to the giant steps made by African American female engineers like Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughn, Dr. Christine Darden, Astronaut Dr. Yvonne Cagle, and Dr. Katherine Johnson, who just recently celebrated her 100th Birthday. Their contributions have truly impacted space exploration and in our lives as we know it. Whether it’s aluminum foil, microwaves, scratch-resistant lenses, or even false NASA inventions, like Space Ice Cream, it’s undeniable that our experience as Earthlings, and as future Martians, will be shaped by NASA technology.

    Boston Public School youths conduct brainstorming & ideation sessions at the Boston Public Library

    Through Mbadika’s summer-long initiative, Boston Design Academy (BDA), students received support and exposure to Boston’s design and innovation economy and provided their perceptive towards innovations for the Future of Work. These experiences were made possible by collaborations with the City of Boston, Timothy Smith Network (TSN), Boston Public Library (BPL), and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

    Young BPS achievers from TechBoston Academy were invited to spend 6 weeks at Boston Public Library to explore how their community could thrive in the future workforce within and beyond the City of Boston. design could drive innovation in the Future of Work within the City of Boston. After witnessing various tech and design solutions from companies like, MassRobotics, Le Labo Fragrances, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Drone Tech UAS, and Johnny’s Cupcakes, their ideas began to take shape. In addition to exploring design and its wide range of applications, students were tasked to envision how their community could thrive in the future workforce within and beyond the City of Boston.

    Boston Public School youths explore NASA’s Patent Portfolio site for a potential innovation to use for their solutions

    According to the New York Times, the Future of Work will be dominated by the continuation of the trends like remote working, improved communication, access to professional development, as well as a decline in physical labor requirements. In the City of Boston, this has allowed for more flexibility in the workforce and an improvement in the quality of life. This is evident in various innovations like, robots assisting humans in designing furniture and access to disposable income with the booming gig economy like TaskRabbit, Uber, Instacart, etc.

    With their new found knowledge about space exploration and digital fabrication tools, BPS students applied innovations from NASA’s Patent Portfolio using Autodesk Sketchbook, Tinkercad to make a prototype of a potential solution to address challenges faced the present Boston’s workforce. They brainstormed, sketched, modeled and fabricated their solutions using 3d printers from FormLabs. For further conceptual renderings, students harnessed the new Tinkercad-to-Fusion 360 plug-in, which took their ideas to another level of awesomeness.

    Conceptual design workflow of a storage container, Project ZAS, from Sketchbook Pro to Tinkercad to Fusion 360

    Students showcased solutions that could assist their fellow Bostonians in navigating the prospective challenges in the workplace in the not so distant future. Solutions included: Divergent - a wearable communication that allows remote works to have a holographic presence for physical office meetings; Project ZAS - a levitating storage container for workers to carry their personal and work related items; The Third Eye - a flexible yet durable electronic device for seamlessly streaming of content for work and personal uses; LAY Designs - an augmented reality navigation device in the form of a contact lense.

    Conceptual Fusion 360 renderings of Divergent, LAY Designs, The Third Eye, and Project ZAS

    Boston Design Academy was a rewarding experience for BPS students, NASA, and ultimately the City of Boston. As a Mbadika pilot program, Boston Design Academy allowed students to truly explore the design process and give their teachers the peace of mind for preparing their students for a future of continual learning. Whether exploring how to create a holographic display or employing magnetic levitation in their prototype, it was an absolute delight to see young BPS students literally reach for the stars in bringing their ideas to reality.

    The final 3d printed prototype of an augmented reality device, LAY Designs, with an official NASA badge

    As NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Chief of Strategic Partnerships Office (SPO), Nona Cheeks commented in regards to Boston Design Academy; “This pilot program offered a valuable and rewarding opportunity to work with student innovators. We’re impressed with the students’ work as they explored NASA technologies and imagined new ways to use them.”

    -Written by Erica Nwankwo