In a world that often seems so large, the priorities of the 21st century have a way of bringing us together, as innovators from every corner of the globe work to solve environmental challenges, clean water deficits, and more. After all, the language of science, mathematics, and engineering is universal.
The people at Level Up Village are fostering this global connectivity early by motivating and inspiring children from all over the globe to collaborate in solving real world problems. They’re using 3D printing and 3D design, two emerging tools of this digital age, to do it.
Today, I’m featuring a guest blog by Neesha N. Rahim, a founding partner at Level Up Village, to tell us more.
At Level Up Village, we believe that education is about teaching students globally how to think and how to collaborate with one another. But the challenges of reaching and teaching kids a world apart are as diverse as the continents on which they live.
In the US, our kids are growing up in a different world than we did. Today, information is easily available and opportunities for self-directed learning are becoming commonplace. The skills required to utilize all that the modern age offers are different than the ones we needed a generation ago. While we got away with rote memorization and great parroting skills, today’s students need critical and creative thinking skills. They have to learn to pull utility and innovation out of searchable, seemingly limitless amounts of information. And, in an age where solutions to the world’s most intractable problems are being solved by people collaborating all over the world, global connection and collaboration skills are imperative.
In the developing world, we have to start by changing kids’ views of education. There, we see students who don’t have reason to believe in the value of education. For our students in Rwanda, for example, after working hard to complete middle school, most boys end up having to go work in the mines. In a place like Haiti, when you spend your days following around a parent who is a trash picker, chances are you don’t dream much higher than being a maid in someone’s home. All these children have seen are the ramifications of poverty, so raising their sights is asking for faith in something unproven. We have to show them a different result is possible.
This is precisely where Level Up Village comes in with an audacious goal in mind: To change the narrative for both groups and empower them to lift up and inspire one another. We’re using 3D printing and engineering to do it, linking kids across the world to one another and empowering them to solve real-life problems together. We call our program Global Inventors in Training, an experiential learning environment in which students are paired up one to one across the world. They then learn about engineering, CAD, and 3D printing, and create lighting solutions together for partner students who don’t have steady access to electricity.
With help from 3D Systems, we offer a Cube 3D printer to educational groups and schools in the US as part of our eight-week after-school or in-school programs. (Contact us to learn more!) Even better, when US students take one of our classes, that class is given back to one of our global partners in Africa, South America, or South Asia. We provide a Cube to one of our global partner schools for every four new classes we launch in the US. We supply the teacher training, turnkey curriculum, global partner management, and technical support that educators need to help their students build deeply rooted 21st-century skills.
Why 3D printing? Because it feels like magic. Kids are drawn to it; it quickly captures and inspires the imagination. But it also teaches kids to fail forward. Working with 3D printing illustrates what’s possible, and it makes invention accessible. And the global collaboration we foster between kids in the US and the developing world gives everything a real-life context with real-life urgency.
We’re seeing surprising results in the most unlikely of places. In Pakistan, a country that is seemingly hurtling towards either revolution or another military take-over, we are working with Farah Kamal, who has been working with iEarn Pakistan to change the narrative for students in Pakistan for decades.
The day after a devastating attack on Pakistan’s biggest international airport, our teachers and students were scared for their lives, afraid to go out, enraged, and shaken. Yet they showed up to our class. Then they tweeted or shared status updates about what they’d printed on the Cube, and they made this video for their partner students at Rutgers Prep in NJ:
They focused on what they could do using 3D printing and engineering at a time when it felt naïve to hope. And given that it was the last class, they decided to carry that change maker mentality to their peers who didn’t get to take that class. Check out the Facebook page they launched that day.
I was fortunate to meet those students and teachers when I went to Pakistan over the spring. I’ll never forget the looks on their faces when I set up the Cube. Nor will I forget how those students, for whom illiteracy is commonplace in their communities, asked the most amazing questions. “Can a 3D printer print blood? How about water?”
Our US teachers and students are equally inspired by the students in Pakistan and around the world. They have learned cutting-edge technology skills, creative thinking, how to fail forward, and how to work with people in different walks of life.
With each new installation, be it in the US or abroad, I see how 3D printing and this collaborative engineering class have fundamentally changed the way our students think. The students have surpassed their own expectations. Looking at them, I know it’s only a matter of time until one of these young people does the impossible. It’s only a matter of time until one of them provides real answers to those whimsical questions and changes the narrative for our world.