STRIVE Prep’s HackSchool doesn’t just come up with cool ideas, they come up with solutions to make the world a better place. Students are empowered to stretch boundaries and use their skills to address real world problems. HackSchool is one of the leading programs in the state for aspiring engineers and on September 19, they were recognized for its approach to STEM learning by Colorado Succeeds as one of the finalists for the 2019 Excellence Awards in the STEM Education prize category. 

“The selected finalists are challenging the status quo and exploring ways to truly engage students in learning,” as stated by Colorado Succeeds.  

Since HackSchool began in 2015 as a Kickstarter campaign, students have built projects that help real people, working with partners such as MiCasa Neighborhood Center, Denver School for the Blind, and the Department of Education in Brazil. Students created a “smart” cane for blind people, “smart” free food pantries for the neighborhood, and 3D printed educational models for blind students in India. 

“What I love most about the school is the relationship you get to build with teachers,” said HackSchool student Dalila. “Because we’re not a huge school, you get to know your teacher on a personal level, you get to form that connection…you’re going to have support from that teacher if you ever need it.”

At the center of the program is a socially-conscious makerspace. It is a community design and engineering space within STRIVE Prep – Excel and is shared with the art department, mirroring successful art collectives and encouraging people to work together. It is an open-workshop that is fully equipped with an electronics shop, 3D printers, a laser cutter, sewing machines, and basic tools to empower students to build projects and solutions to make the world a better place. 

This year, HackSchool plans to continue to provide training and professional development for educators and to offer after-school community programming where high school age students from surrounding schools can collaborate on solutions-based engineering projects. They will offer HackSchool Introduction to Engineering courses for STRIVE Prep-Excel students with the first semester focused around providing an introduction to engineering practices, and the second semester is setup as an open-ended, student-led, project-based course.

“Any body is welcome to be an engineer, is welcome to be a maker,” said HackSchool teacher Allison Moran.