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Makerspace STEAMs ahead in Brentwood

The Brentwood Press March 18, 2019

By Dawnmarie Fehr

Justin Wilson will be opening the area’s first “makerspace” in downtown Brentwood next month.

A longtime music instructor, Wilson has always enjoyed bringing science and math into a real-world context for his students. On April 1, he will be offering classes in his new makerspace, the Brentwood Maker Academy, where students can get their hands “dirty” working on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) projects.

When STEAM is combined with a makerspace, Wilson explains, “... Students will have the opportunity to build working, interactive projects from scratch, using a variety of hand tools.”

Wilson has been successfully implementing his maker academy in his garage, but looks forward to expanding into a commercial space. He currently has curriculum for middle and high school students and will be adding kindergarten through third-grade curriculum in May.

Tina Pelc of Brentwood put her 14-year-old son, Aleksander, in Wilson’s classes and said the experience has been nothing but positive.

“We’ve been working with Justin since the beginning of the school year,” Pelc said. “Aleksander has completely excelled. He has a great time in the maker academy. He loves math and science and to get to apply what he’s learning has been so exciting. They just finished their first build. They built their own rockets from scratch and launched them. It’s a really great opportunity to see what math and science can do in the real world.”

Pelc added that since most of Aleksander’s schoolwork is Chromebook-based, he appreciated the opportunity to use his hands on something other than a keyboard.

Wilson, who was born and raised in Brentwood, said the idea to open a creative space for kids came to him while working on the road about six months ago.

“I had taken some time off from teaching and was working as a software implementation engineer,” he said. “In my time off, I started writing the curriculum for this program. My students’ parents were suggesting that I start something like this because there seemed to be a growing thought that kids in schools were doing a lot of paperwork, not a lot of hands-on.”

Wilson proceeded to design a program inspired by STEAM products, saying he decided to set it inside a makerspace, putting the tools in the kids’ hands to foster creativity and ingenuity.

Wilson’s projects will encompass a range of topics such as engineering, aerospace, renewable energy and biofuels, each including a hands-on aspect. His goal is to encourage learning in all areas. Once he gets the maker academy going, he hopes to expand it into a nonprofit that can bring STEAM projects to underserved areas, providing classes for free to those unable to afford them.

“I have experience working with students and families who don’t have the financial capability to do this kind of thing,” Wilson said.

Over the past 20 years, Wilson has worked in a variety of fields, but teaching has always been his passion. He wants to give the community a place for children to work on supplemental projects and activities that will keep them active and engaged.

“I want to give back to the community and get the community involved in science and education, and building leadership opportunities,” said Wilson. “It’s about the community. And blowing stuff up every now and then.”

The Brentwood Maker Academy will open for classes on April 1, and is located at 812 First St., Suite B, in Brentwood. For more information, call 925-418-5598 or visit www.brentwoodmakeracademy.com.

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