High tech high schoolers get hands on at StudentRNDon November 2, 2012 @ 7:14 am (Updated: 12:01 pm - 11/2/12 )
Well, kids these days can get into electronics, computers and design without ticking off mom. Bellevue has a first-of-it's-kind space for students with a high-tech future.
StudentRND is a non-profit group open to students from all over the Seattle area who want to do more than learn. They want to create.
"This is what we call the 'Fab Lab,' and this device right here is actually a laser cutter," says StudentRND founder Edward Jiang. "So what students can do is, they can actually design something on their computer and see it come out in real life within minutes."
Jiang started StudentRND in his garage a few years ago. It has become so popular with high school and college students all over the Seattle area they now have their own dedicated space that is filled with some very cool equipment.
In addition to the laser cutter, the group has a computer lab, a wood shop, and a 3-D printer. The printer uses a device similar to a very precise glue gun to drop liquid plastic to the specifications of a computer model. After it cools, the end product feels like a piece of hard plastic.
If all that still isn't enough for the students to create their inventions, StudentRND can also help them procure whatever components they might need.
For some it's just a hobby, but for a lot of the kids it's turning into a real business. Last year, a student from Issaquah High School put together a plasma speaker that uses a tiny bolt of electricity to generate sound. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, you can now purchase your own plasma speaker kit online.
This year, a group of kids from Newport High School partnered in creating a custom speaker company called Reis Audio. The project initially started out as a Ruben's Tube. That's a tube attached to a speaker that emits flames which change size based on the sound being pumped through the tube.
They had to design their own speakers to make it work, and that led them to discover the real gem of the project. Reis Audio now uses StudentRND's laser cutter to make speakers to just about any specifications.
One project that really took off last year was called the TapIn.tv. The young designers of the video-streaming site received enough seed money that they are now running their own business in Palo Alto, California.
The next rising star seems to be 17-year-old Lane Aasen. The Garfield High School student recently won the high school award at the Seattle Innovation Fast Pitch contest for his browser extension Firedove. It translates users' online shopping to charity donations.
"So, they download the extension, they go shop online just like usual, and 5 percent of their purchase will go to their non-profit," Aasen explains.
Firedove is already working with Amazon and Best Buy. Aasen says he is also still making time for his class work.
"I'm definitely going off to college," says Aasen. "I mean, I guess if this takes off, maybe no need for college. Right?"
From Jiang's perspective, the experience the kids are getting at StudentRND gives them something college never could.
"I think it's really something that's a new model of education," Jiang says. "In schools, you go there to learn what other people do. At StudentRND you go there to create."
StudentRND is comprised mainly of three components. In addition to the workspace the group has open year-round in Bellevue, they also have a summer program called the StudentRND Incubator, and they run CodeDays.
The Incubator is an intense program for students to focus on their projects over the summer. They can work in teams to imagine, design and create software or hardware.
CodeDay is an intense 24-hour competition where students work in teams to create new applications or games. While previous CodeDays have all happened in the Seattle area, StudentRND is hosting CodeDay Portland this weekend. They hope it will be just the beginning of an expansion that will see CodeDay's popping up all across the country.
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