Program Profile: Lena Park CDC Provides Access to 21st Century Technology and STEAM Educational Experiences

Providing affordable housing, clinical and social services, STEAM focused youth programs, college and career prep programs, and technological skill building experiences, Lena Park CDC supports its residents’ physical, financial, and mental well-being while expanding their access to 21st century technology and STEAM education.

“The mission is to serve the community and provide affordable housing,” says Andrea Kaiser, Executive Director of Lena Park CDC. “When we reopened, we voted to make STEAM learning and workforce opportunities a priority. By enhancing 21st century skills we are helping expose people to new educational and career choices.”

In service of this mission, Lena Park CDC currently offers a number of STEAM learning opportunities and resources, including robotics, coding, and computer literacy courses.  This February, Lena Park CDC will broaden these offerings by opening a state of the art fabrication lab featuring high-tech tools that will allow students in STEAM after school and summer programs to develop technology and design skills while engaging in creative projects.

“Our program will have three different modules,” says Greg Buckland, Lena Park’s Fab Lab Coordinator,“one in the computer lab focused on digital art, a second focused on robotics, and a third that is focused on the fab lab, including an intro to engineering concepts and design thinking, as well as specific digital fabrication techniques including 3D printing, laser cutting, CNC milling, digital embroidery, and circuit making and soldering techniques.”

A key function of the fab lab at Lena Park will be to promote entrepreneurship. Through the lab, both students and adult residents at Lena Park will be able to participate in programs that help them design, create, and ultimately sell their own products.

“We’re hoping to develop entrepreneurship programs for young people and adults, says Buckland. “If you combine our graphic design tools with, for example, our laser cutter, you can design a number of items. Our residents will be able use the resources here to produce things that they can sell as part of building a livelihood.”

The fab lab will also allow Lena Park to foster connections between students, adult users, college students, and local businesses, and promote community collaboration on large scale projects.

“We plan on using the fab lab to connect our community to industry and people in the STEM world including college students and people in the workforce,” says Kaiser. “When we invite local businesses to use our equipment we will ask them, as part of the agreement, to work to our students and adults. We’re also using the fab lab to create a big public art installation which is going to celebrate 21st century technology.”

Through engaging with the fab lab, both students and adult residents at Lena Park will have opportunities to develop 21st century technological skills, allowing them to access new educational paths and careers while deepening their connections to their community.

“I fully expect that there will be some young people running circles around me by the end of the year,” says Buckland. “I’m looking forward to that.”