North Vancouver company engineering fun

North Vancouver company engineering fun

Andy Prest/North Shore News

April 19,2017

Looking for a fun new activity for your child with the side-benefit of potentially saving the world?

North Vancouver start-up BrainSTEM Learning Canada may have just the thing.

Tucked into a storefront on Marine Drive, the company offers workshops, parties, camps and other programs for children ages 4-14 focusing on the four pillars of STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. It’s not all protractors and spreadsheets though – the classes get kids into action with projects like building water bottle rockets; crafting roller coasters; and designing, programming and building (and sometimes fighting!) robots.

“It’s a great opportunity to teach children, open their eyes to the different possibilities of engineering and being creative,” says co-founder Sarah Baldwin, a North Vancouver native, adding that the building really gets rocking when the kids get their robot creations into a mini sumo ring.

“The sound level really goes up,” she says.

But it’s not just battle bots either, Baldwin says.

The company – the brainchild of engineers Oscar Bustos (Baldwin’s husband) and Enrique Cordero, along with company owner David Terron – has the lofty goal of developing the minds of future engineers who may someday solve the world’s greatest problems.

Baldwin cites the examples of the California 12-year-old who built an innovative and cost-effective braille printer using his Lego Mindstorms EV3 robotics kit, and the Arkansas 14-year-old who became the youngest person to produce nuclear fusion.

“We like that kids don’t have our set logic – as we get older it gets set that this is the way things are and this is the way it should be,” says Baldwin. “But kids come into it bright eyed and bushy tailed, they don’t have pre-conceived notions about how things are supposed to be. So they can come up with all sorts of ideas that maybe we as adults haven’t thought of.”

What results is an interesting alternative to a bouncy castle birthday party or a generic summer camp. The hope is that the children are building more than just robots, rockets and roller coasters – they’re building self-confidence and creativity as well.

“We don’t tell them exactly how to do it – we allow them to design, build, test and improve their own creations,” says Baldwin. “You’re not necessarily saying, ‘OK, now you’re going to do math. … We bring in acceleration and velocity and these concepts and allow them to figure it out through learning. And then they remember those concepts and why those things work.”

Prices start at $25 for a drop-in session or $135 for a six-week course for the younger learners, a little more for older kids. Topics covered range from robotics and stop-motion animation to aerospace, civil, electrical, mechanical, environmental and chemical engineering.

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