By Christine Byrd, Communications Director

A group of sixth graders from Los Angeles’ 99th Street Elementary School took a field trip on January 23 to the Base 11 Innovation Center in Compton, where they experienced project based learning with science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM).

Inside the Innovation Center, students encountered design software, 3D printers, laser cutters, a CNC machine, and other industry-quality manufacturing equipment — most of them seeing these tools for the first time.

The Base 11 Innovation Center, located at Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum, opened in 2018. Built into an upcycled shipping container, this “makerspace in a box” is Base 11’s first facility located within the community instead of on a college campus, and is intended to be a resource for local students to gain hands-on skills in engineering that can lead to well-paid jobs or four-year college degrees.

“Thank you Base 11 for the awesome experience. Our students and teachers loved it. It’s not often that our students get to experience something as unique and worthwhile such as Base 11 in the area of STEM.”

—Marissa Borden, principal, 99th Street Elementary School

After an overview of the equipment, Base 11 Innovation Center Director Teniel Jones and Student Success Specialist Jade Kim led the students through an activity from NASA’s Engineering Design Challenge, “Gaining Traction on Mars.” Working in small teams, the students let their imaginations soar as they came up with a team name and used design software to develop logos that express their team identity — a challenge that required creativity and collaboration, as well as a little trial and error.

Badges printed at Compton IC

Badges the student teams designed on computers were produced on the vinyl cutter for them to keep.

After designing the badge, student Joshua Bernal said he learned two important lessons: “When you make a mistake, you can learn from it. And when you work as a team, you can get things done faster.”

The sixth graders also had the opportunity to ask questions of a real-life engineer in training: Base 11 Victory Circle student Ebony Warren, who is currently attending Santa Monica College and completed a Base 11 summer fellowship at UCI, where she designed, built, and programmed a Mars rover. 

Warren answered questions from the younger students about what she does as a computer engineering student, how she became interested in computer engineering, and how she started a robotics club at her school.

“One of the big things I’ve learned from being an engineer is to just keep trying,” Warren said. “No matter how many times you fail, it’s only when you succeed that it matters.”

When asked what advice she wishes she could have given herself when she was in sixth grade, she told the students, “Take every opportunity — never brush something aside because you think you can do it later. You never know what course your life is going to take you in, so don’t waste any opportunity. Just go for it.” 

Students were also treated to a tour of Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum, complete with an up-close look at a few of the helicopters and airplanes on site. The hands-on, project-based learning activity and others like it are possible thanks to grant funding from American Honda Foundation and MUFG Union Bank Foundation to support community collaborations and programming within the Base 11 Innovation Center in Compton.

Sixth grade teacher Juan Urquieta described the day as “A remarkable experience that sparked students’ interest into aviation and STEAM-related activities.”

To learn more about Base 11 Innovation Centers, click here.