EVANSTON, Ill. --- This fall, 23 new schools will join Northwestern University’s FUSE Studio program, thanks in part to a recently announced partnership with CompTIA, the nonprofit trade association for the information technology industry.
FUSE, an educational program developed by Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy (SESP), brings interactive STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) learning to middle and high school students.
“The heart of FUSE experience is student choice,” said Reed Stevens, FUSE founder, principal investigator of three National Science Foundation (NSF) grants to FUSE and a professor of learning sciences at SESP. “We’ve carefully designed nearly 30 challenge sequences that level up like video games, and students choose among those, moving at their own pace and following their own path through the challenges. Students explore and go deep with challenges that interest them.”
FUSE educators facilitate hands-on learning in specially equipped design studios, helping students develop skills for a rapidly changing job market. Students work alone and in groups to build robots, design homes using professional software and craft items of their own design using 3-D printers.
Stevens notes that the students work together on challenges, learning together and sharing what they’ve learned with one another. FUSE program researchers are studying these learning phenomena through support from the NSF.
FUSE will expand to a total of 68 schools this year, bringing its total to 136 schools in the United States and Finland. The partnership with CompTIA alone will expand FUSE Studios to more than 2,000 new students in 10 states, including California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Texas.
“Our research has shown that the best time to interest students in tech careers is in middle school, when they’re still in the ‘dreamer’ stage of deciding what they want to do with their lives,” said Charles Eaton, executive vice president, social innovation, CompTIA. “The FUSE Studios are a great way for students to play with technology and see what they can create, according to their own interests.”
The new partnership and expansion is part of CompTIA’s NextUp initiative, which builds a mentoring program between FUSE students and CompTIA’s IT professionals. FUSE and CompTIA will collaborate to build three new IT-focused challenges, designed to expose students to IT career options in fun and engaging ways.
“We’re very excited about our partnership with CompTIA. It allows us to systematically give more schools and students access to hands-on, experiential challenges that are rooted in real world contemporary IT skills,” said Henry Mann, the director of education and partnerships at FUSE. “It’s also important to us that we reach populations typically left out of the STEAM and IT workforce, so we’re especially excited that this partnership allows us to reach many schools that might not otherwise be able to afford innovative STEAM programming like FUSE.”
The Brooklyn Emerging Leaders Academy (BELA) -- an all-girls high school opening this fall in Brooklyn, New York -- is one of the schools selected to receive a FUSE Studio under the CompTIA partnership. The school’s mission is centered around cultivating a spirt of ownership among young women and preparing them to graduate college and become leaders in professional industries.
“For young women especially, the interest in STEAM fields is there,” said BELA’s director of advancement Shannon Riley. “But we have to expose the possibilities, allow them to pace themselves and choose their own paths. Education is most successful when it’s tailored to individual interests.”
The ultimate goal of FUSE is to help students develop creativity, collaboration, adaptive problem-solving skills and persistence when things don’t go as planned.
“FUSE teaches students a sense of curiosity and exploration,” said Nicia Fullwood, head of school at BELA. “And it teaches strength and perseverance. FUSE teaches students that ‘failure is just another try’ -- another opportunity to learn and improve.”
Floral Park Memorial High School on Long Island also will incorporate FUSE into its science curriculum this year, furthering the school’s mission to educate through stimulation, investigation, inquiry, design and exploration.
“The idea that students, with the guidance of teacher facilitators, will learn through exploration in topics and concepts that they are directly excited about is a very different paradigm in learning,” said Daniel Mezzafonte, science chairperson at Floral Park Memorial High School. “The program also taps into the idea that students learn in very different ways. Recognizing and realizing the full potential of the collective expertise of a collaborative team is essential for student success at the middle school/high school level and beyond.”
Schools opening new FUSE studios through the CompTIA partnership:
- Los Angeles - Dr. Lawrence H. Moore Math Science Technology Academy
- Oakland - Urban Promise Academy Middle School
- Estes Park - Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center
- Melbourne - Stone Magnet Middle School
- Chicago - John T. McCutcheon Elementary School-Middle School Branch
- Chicago - Sawyer Elementary School
- Chicago - Shoesmith Elementary School
- Glen Ellyn - Hadley Junior High School
- Niles - Gemini Jr. High School
- Peoria - Manual Academy
- Louisville - Olmsted Academy South
- Brick - Lake Riviera Middle School
- Highland Park - Bartle School
- Jersey City - William L. Dickinson High School
- Long Island - Floral Park Memorial High School
- New York City - Brooklyn Emerging Leaders Academy Charter School
- Hood River - Wy’east Middle School
- Philadelphia - Hardy Williams High School
- Austin - Blackshear Elementary
- Brownsville - Harmony School of Innovation
- Laredo - Hector J. Garcia Early College High School
- Leon Valley - School of Science and Technology Discovery
- San Antonio - Harmony Science Academy