Brothers Luke and Adam Iseman gave an inspiring talk on Saturday at Maker Faire Bay Area’s Education Stage about how they created a $1,000 micro-scholarship for students at their former high school in Pennsylvania — and how you can do the same. Their award is called the BEST Award (Butwin Elias Science and Technology Award), and they made it to encourage kids to make, and to honor two of their two favorite teachers in high school, Mr. Butwin and Mr. Elias.
MAKE donated a magazine subscription to this effort a couple months ago, and at that time, Mr. Elias and Mr. Butwin didn’t even know MAKE magazine existed! In just a few short months, they have already started incorporating projects into their curriculum: Mr. Elias has already built an alcohol-powered two-liter bottle rocket to demonstrate D = RT. “It’s really easy to be in our bubble of, ‘Oh yeah, of course everybody knows about the latest 30 3D printers that came out last week,’ but it’s important to remember that the future is not evenly distributed yet. So little things like sending a magazine subscription to your old high school can have a much bigger impact than you think,” says Luke.
They shared the story of one award applicant, whose project was an Oreo Pump Gun. This was a kid who went from not attending school on Tuesdays to being someone that they have to essentially kick out at the end of the extracurricular Saturday engineering program run by Mr. Elias. Luke says, “He’s — as many of you probably have; as we have — he’s becoming addicted to making things.”
Luke spoke about the impact that just a little bit of money has to a kid: “Imagine if, in high school, someone had given you five hundred bucks for a project that you came up with and published of your own volition. How would that impact you, down the line? Not only in terms of money to buy better parts for a nicer potato cannon next time, but that’s a really healthy message, I think, to send kids. Especially when so much of education is focused on ‘Can we get kids to pass the next test?’ … You don’t need to have billions of dollars, and you don’t need to have a $10 million innovation prize to encourage people to do cool shit. You can do it for however little you want.”
“It’s not that hard to set this up,” Adam adds. “You literally just have to email or call your old high school, and write an application for whatever you want them to do.” And Luke points out that the wheels can be set in motion from either side: “It would have been great if we had gotten an email from a teacher, a couple of years after graduating college” asking, “‘Hey, have you thought about giving a couple hundred bucks to the kid who does the coolest project?’”