Back when we were kids, STEM wasn’t an acronym, it was part of a plant. Nowadays the integration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math is practically a religion in education policy, permeating institutions of learning across the nation. As you can guess, in New York City this translates to even more opportunities for crazy fun and innovative classes, the likes of which our younger selves could never have imagined. Here’s where your tiny Einsteins can get steeped in STEM.
photo: The Pixel Academy
Get creative with technology at Pixel Academy, where kids discover digital technologies like Virtual Reality Video Game Design and 3D Printing. Using the latest hardware and software available, even beginners will be able to create simple video games that they can play at home. Drop-in hours are fluid, so kids come when they want and learn what they want: maybe digital music one day and video game design the next. Academy teachers encourage their youngest members to start with design-centric topics like 3D modeling and stop-motion animation before moving on to more code-based lessons, like 3D game development and web design.
Good to know: There’s currently a waitlist for membership, but you can still sign up for 8 weeks of Camp Pixel this summer. Registration is open now.
What: 3D Modeling, Stop Motion Animation, and more
When: 2:30-6:30 p.m.
Cost: $25 monthly membership + $35 each visit or $45 each visit for non-members
The Pixel Academy
163 Pacific St.
photo: Angie Six via flickr
Take kids with a budding passion for web development to New York Code and Design Academy, where they’ll learn basic programming skills with fun exercises that incorporate the Sphero Robotics Platform. (Sphero is a golf-ball sized toy that you can drive like a remote control car, use as controller for video games, and even as a pet toy.) The skills kids pick up in these classes teach them to think more logically and analytically and prepare them to program applications and analyze data. NYCDA offers classes for adults, too, so there’s plenty of room to grow. And if this all sounds way too complicated, know this: as long as your kid can install programs, delete files, and navigate to different directories, they have what it takes to begin.
Good to know: Students need to bring their own laptops to class. Macs are preferred, but PCs work too.
What: Programming with Robots
When: Tues. and Thurs., 4-5 p.m.
Cost: $2000 for a 12-week course, all inclusive, and each student takes home a Sphero after the course.
New York Code and Design Academy
90 John St., Suite 404
photo: Beam Center
Using the credit card-sized computer called Raspberry Pi, students in Beam Center’s class will use the Python programming language and basic circuitry skills to build a homemade photo booth that posts pictures to the internet. They’ll also learn how the Raspberry Pi works, which means maybe you will, too. To get a true feel for the place, visit the free, two-day Inventgenuity Festival, hosted by Beam Center every January. The year’s festival features a large balancing sculpture designed by fabricator and Beam faculty member Brett Van Aalsburg, demos like experimenting with live-feed video installations and drop-in activities that might incorporate weird food projects. The 2015 festival will be held January 24-25.
Good to know: Beam Center offers tuition assistance and pick up from some Brooklyn schools.
What: Build Your Own Photo Booth
When: Mon.-Thurs., 3-6 p.m.
Ages: Grades 2-6
Cost: $360 for 8 weeks
Beam Center (*In February, the center is moving to 60 Sackett St., one mile away.)
47 Bergen St.
Created by a founder of the Carnegie Learning Center, MakerState stokes a passion for engineering, circuitry, computing, physic, and design through hands-on projects. At the JCC, in its wildly popular Minecraft course, students collaborate on basic programming problems, build structures that fit real-world architectural logic, and learn about economics, division of labor, and resource management — all within the confines of the Minecraft game.
Good to know: The program’s assignments link to Common Core in a fun, engaging way.
What: Minecraft Engineering and Computing with MakerState
When: Mondays, 4:30-6 p.m., Jan 26 – Jun 1
Cost: $525.00 Member, $675.00 Non-member for 15 sessions
334 Amsterdam Ave.
Upper West Side
photo: Staten Island Museum
Naturalist and Staten Island Advance columnist Clay Wollney hosts the Junior Science Club at the Staten Island Museum, covering various science topics through hands-on projects. January’s program offers the chance to design and build mechanical contraptions, and in February kids will experiment with science and technology while learning about Mobius chains and fossil molds.
Good to know: The program also offers nature hikes on select mornings.
What: Jr. Science Club and Outdoor Adventure Programs
When: Monthly, every third Saturday
Cost: $8/$5 Members at the door
Staten Island Museum
75 Stuyvesant Pl.
photo: Brooklyn Robot Foundry
Beginning in kindergarten, kids at Brooklyn Robot Foundry learn the fundamentals of engineering through hands-on projects. Each week, the classes integrate new concepts and instructors contextualize the kids’ work by pointing out real-world examples. Most weeks, older students will take home their self-built robots or machines. Weekend workshops are also available if you and your engineer want to sample the Foundry’s offerings. Upcoming workshops include building a vibrating robot or an electronic stuffed animal.
Go to know: The Foundry also has a a Manhattan location at 528 Canal St.
What: After School Robot Building
When: Mon.-Fri., depending on age, 3:30-5:30 p.m.
Ages: Grades K-7
Cost: $480 for 10 weeks
303 3rd Ave.
photo: The Makery
Though the location of The Makery is constantly changing, its founders have a permanent passion for emerging creative technologies. Offering pop-up workshops around the city for kids and adults ages 8 and up, The Makery encourages intergenerational learning, coming alone or with friends, and involving parents in the process of creating and discovering. Its next pop-up opens around January 12th in TriBeCa with workshops like Toy Hacking (make old toys do new things) and Make Your Own Paper Speakers.
Good to know: If you can’t make it to The Makery, the group sells instructional kits, like a make-your-own interactive color changing holiday card.
What: The Makery Pop-Up Workshops
When: Opening January 12th
Cost: $50-300 depending on the workshop
Another workshop-based center is Sony Wonder Technology Labs, which hosts Sci-Tech workshops twice a month. The workshops are inexpensive and by reservation, so you don’t have to worry about showing up and being sent home. One recent class taught kids how to wire, connect and power-up an arrangement of LED lights to illuminate a Hanukkah menorah or Christmas tree “portrait” to take home, for the bargain price of $10 for a three-hour workshop.
Good to know: The lab also offers Tech for Tots workshops for 3-6 year olds.
What: Sci-Tech Workshops
When: Dates vary, check website for upcoming workshops
Cost: $6-10 depending on the workshop
Sony Wonder Technology Labs
550 Madison Ave.
Upper East Side 212-833-8100 Online: sonywondertechlab.com
photo: Carmelo the Science Fellow
Last but not least, we have Carmelo the Science fellow in Brooklyn, where this winter, kids will take their fascination with pirates to its apex in a course called Walk the Plank. Using hands-on, inquiry based methods, mini scientists will learn concepts like buoyancy and displacement when they build ships out of clay and compare them to ships made out of other materials. They’ll also learn physics, studying forces, motion and potential-kinetic energy by observing and building catapults and air cannons.
Good to Know: Younger kids can participate in Carmelo’s Science Playgroup.
What: Walk the Plank: A scientific study on Pirates
When: Tues. and Thurs., 4-5:30 p.m.
Ages: Grades 3-5
Cost: $425 for 13 weeks
Do you have a favorite STEM class in the city? Tell us about it in the comments below!