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Nazareth Prep Awarded Technology Grant

Thursday, October 27, 2016

We are excited to share that Nazareth Prep has been awarded a $200,000 technology grant by the Diocese of Pittsburgh as part of an initiative of "Our Campaign for the Church Alive!" to infuse more technology into all Catholic High Schools within the Diocese of Pittsburgh. 

The technology grant will provide an opportunity for us to build our new iLab (short for innovation lab), a "FabLab" that will not only be accessible to our students as they make, create and design solutions to community challenges as part of our project-based learning courses but to other students throughout the Pittsburgh region within our after-school mechanical engineering program and Summer STEM Institute we plan to run next summer. 

Nazareth Prep is committed to providing opportunities for youth to build career awareness and skills with regard to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and gain the future-ready mindsets necessary for these roles within our workforce and for acceptance into STEM based college programs. By including a liberal arts foundation, Nazareth Prep students learn to use technology, engineering and human-centered design to identify and solve community social justice challenges but also challenges faced within their families and neighborhoods. A special focus is on sustainability and green technologies. Currently, students in our "Voices of Sustainability" course at the Energy Innovation Center are exploring issues and designing solutions to issues raised by community members in Pittsburgh's Hill District neighborhood. 

So, you may be asking - what is a FabLab anyway? A FabLab is a low-cost digital workshop equipped with laser-cutters, routers, 3D scanners, 3D milling machines, and programming tools, where you can make almost anything. There are over 150 FabLabs around the world, open to local inventors, small businesses, and garage entrepreneurs. Nazareth Prep will be the first certified FabLab at a Catholic School in the region as well as the first primarily serving an urban population during the day and in an out-of-school setting within our summer and after-school programming. The FabLab concept was created by Professor Neil Gershenfeld at MIT. Despite the potential impact of FabLabs in education, they are mostly focused on adults, entrepreneurship, and product design. Nazareth Prep's iLab will be geared towards all students but a particular focus will be placed on equity and access of the lab to students from the City of Pittsburgh and surrounding neighborhoods as well as NCCP's feeder schools and near-by parochial schools. Nazareth Prep's many entrepreneurship programs such as our EDGE game-design start-up company will have a cutting-edge place to prototype and test their work. 

As we prepare to renovate and create the space for the new iLab on our campus a carefully designed teacher preparation program will also be launched as a part of our efforts to grow our project-based learning program. More and more colleges and employers are looking for portfolios of work that demonstrate applied examples of content and skills. The Nazareth Prep iLab will provide a place for students to dream, design and build products and solutions that are sustainable, ethical and low-cost to produce. The work produced in the iLab will be showcased on a public website and blog next year and our grand-opening will be opened to the public. 

In addition to the new iLab, the technology grant will also provide critical upgrades to our security systems, two new iMac Labs that will support the use of digital media and student produced audio and video as well as advanced A/V technologies for every classroom. A special thanks to Manager of Educational Technologies, Jenny McGrail for her leadership and partnership with the proposal. We also appreciate the generosity of the members of the technology initiative for "Our Campaign for the Church Alive!" and are excited to share our space with the community and use it for social good. 

An example of a school-based FabLab