CFS Seminar with Neil Gershenfeld, Sherry Lassiter, and Jan Morrison

Wednesday, November 13, 2013: Constructing Education
MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms director Neil Gershenfeld, Fab Foundation director Sherry Lassiter, and CEO and president of TIES (Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM) Jan Morrison introduced the science and technology of digital fabrication and explored its impact on education. The next technological revolution has arrived, one in which individuals cannot only use computers to calculate and communicate, but also to fabricate – to engineer and assemble creations designed on a computer. Users now have the ability to make the tools they need to solve their own problems. These technologies can vastly extend and reinvigorate the best traditions of student-driven design and construction; they also can challenge our underlying assumptions about teaching and learning, assessment, and the organization of schools.
Professor Neil Gershenfeld is the director of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms. His unique laboratory is breaking down boundaries between the digital and physical worlds, from creating molecular quantum computers to virtuosic musical instruments. Technology from his lab has been seen and used in settings including New York's Museum of Modern Art and rural Indian villages, the White House and the World Economic Forum, inner-city community centers and automobile safety systems, Las Vegas shows and Sami herds. He is the author of numerous technical publications, patents, and books including Fab, When Things Start To Think, The Nature of Mathematical Modeling, and The Physics of Information Technology, and has been featured in media such as The New York Times, The Economist, NPR, CNN, and PBS.

A Fellow of the American Physical Society, Neil Gershenfeld has been named one of Scientific American's 50 leaders in science and technology, as one of 40 Modern-Day Leonardos by the Museum of Science and Industry, has been selected as a CNN/Time/Fortune Principal Voice, and by Prospect/Foreign Policy as one of the top 100 public intellectuals. Dr. Gershenfeld has a BA in Physics with High Honors from Swarthmore College, a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Cornell University, honorary doctorates from Swarthmore College and Strathclyde University, was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard University Society of Fellows, and a member of the research staff at Bell Labs.

Dr. Gershenfeld is the originator of the growing global network of field fab labs that provide widespread access to prototype tools for personal fabrication, and directs the Fab Academy, the associated program for distributed research and education in the principles and practices of digital fabrication.

Sherry Lassiter is one of the architects of the MIT global Fab Lab program. As Director of the Fab Foundation Lassiter works at the intellectual boundary where transfer of enabling, empowering, technical knowledge allows an idea to come into physical being–where bits become atoms. It’s an interdisciplinary landscape that requires a commitment to creating educational tools and exploring intellectual and economic frontiers. After a two decade career in science journalism as producer, writer and director for television series such as Scientific American Frontiers, Discover the World of Science, and The Science Times, she became a protagonist in science and technology, becoming part of the story, rather that just telling the story.

As Program Manager for the NSF-funded Center for Bits & Atoms at MIT she has seen and enabled the personal fabrication movement as it has grown and evolved. In her time at MIT, Lassiter has become a passionate fab labber and firm believer in the idea of personal fabrication and the empowerment that comes from making things for yourself. To make powerful, useful things in the world you have to learn deep content in science, mathematics and engineering – fab labs provide new inspiration for STEM education, motivation for much of Lassiter’s current work. Lassiter is Director of The Fab Foundation, engaged in the deployment and growth of Fab Labs around the world, enabling grassroots technology development by, for and of the community.

Jan Morrison is the President and CEO of the Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM (TIES) and Executive Director of its 501(C3), Envision Excellence in STEM and has served as the Senior Consultant for College Ready STEM Education as well as Post-secondary Success for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Battelle Memorial Institute, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Innovate to Educate, S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, Senior STEM Education Consultant for the Ohio STEM Learning Network, and currently serves as an advisor with the White House and Department of Education.

Currently, Jan and TIES serve as the designer for the nascent STEM Funders Network, a collaboration of more than nineteen STEM funders seeking to fund STEM for the USA with greater return on their investment and therefore for the nation’s students. Jan consults with Chevron, Siemens America, NASA, Clinton Global Initiative, Northeastern University, North Carolina New Schools Project, many state governments seeking to create statewide STEM networks, and many more STEM institutions.

With a national vision for STEM education, Jan was counsel to the National Academy of Engineering as it developed the Engineering for K-12 Education report and reviewed the Achieve-authored Next Generation Science Standards. Jan and TIES organized the Race to the Top STEM Conference which served to educate thirty states on the vital importance of STEM education and public school transformation and is now assisting numerous states as they seek to implement their STEM vision through STEM network design and implementation.
Much of Jan’s work focuses on the Learn and Earn space that offers all STEM students the opportunity to work in STEM fields while earning credits that have real labor market value as they matriculate at community colleges or universities. TIES is currently the technical assistance provider for the Healthcare Core Curriculum Consortia of community colleges funded by the Department of Labor.

Yet, TIES works hardest and most with school districts and states throughout the country to design new STEM schools as platforms for change. MC2 STEM High School’s four years of great success as a result of the design work Jan did in partnership with the Cleveland Metro School District. Many more STEM schools thrive from the TIES STEM School design work including the newly created Egyptian STEM Model School, meant to lead Egypt into a strong and vibrant education reform, Decatur County School District, Oakland Unified School District, Baltimore City Public Schools, etc. With Carnegie Corporation of New York as a funder and supporter, TIES has codified design studio processes that are supporting schools and students throughout the world.

As a former science teacher for thirty years and principal, Jan helps those she touches to understand the importance of a college/work ready education for all children. TIES with Jan’s leadership works to help all children make sense of the world and find themselves STEM literate, STEM capable and excited about make STEM their life’s work.
Educating independent thinkers for over 55 years in grades PK-8