SparkLab equips young people with the skills needed to thrive in the tech sector or manufacturing industry. Students get hands-on with various equipment, including a CNC machine, laser systems, 3D printers, screen printers, an industrial sewing machine, laptops, iPads, and vinyl cutters. Connected Lane County is reaching students who historically haven’t had access to technology or this type of equipment on their own.
Recently, the team ran a 5-week invention camp for high school students that represent underserved communities in tech fields, such as Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and female-identifying people. The space will be used for field trips, connecting with teachers working with a high percentage of traditionally underserved students, and offering companion afterschool programming during the school year. Teachers can learn about the equipment and culturally relevant curriculum they can use in the classroom.
Larwick credits the OCF IGNITE Grant as a critical factor in raising necessary funds to build SparkLab. “We would not have been able to get the funds we needed had we not had that initial investment from OCF. That match set us up to get this space ready so we could bring other funders in to show them the progress, which led to additional funding that was crucial to the success of the project.”
By leveraging industry partnerships and driving investment into the work of the STEM Hubs, OCF’s Ignite Grant inspired strategies designed to advance STEM education based on the unique needs of each region.
“The SparkLab project was wildly successful,” Larwick said. “Anyone who comes into the space says, ‘This is exactly what our community needs.’”
To learn more about Oregon Community Foundation’s IGNITE grant program, please contact Belle Cantor, Senior Education Program Officer. She can be reached at (503) 227-6846 or firstname.lastname@example.org.