Building creates many things. We create the buildings we live and work in, vehicles, products, gadgets, but it also creates confidence. This is the mission behind MINDDRIVE. MINDDRIVE is an innovative, after-school program where building creates much more than cars. It builds creativity, fuels drive and engages students hands-on. Using STEM focused projects and mentors, MINDDRIVE has grown into an organization that expands a students’ vision for the future.
Founded in 2010, MINDDRIVE was created, “to inspire students to learn through mentoring and project-based learning, to expand their vision of the future and for them to be a positive influence on the community.” What started as a class in creativity taught by Steve Rees at DeLaSalle Education Center quickly developed into an independent, not-for-profit corporation, with a focus on automotive design. Their first project began with six students and six mentors to convert a salvaged Indy race car into an electric vehicle with an investment from Bridgestone Americas. It was during this project that a dedicated group of individuals including Steve Rees, Linda Buchner, Tom Strongman and Ridge Rees made MINDDRIVE a reality.
MINDDRIVE director, Mike Enos, points out how their program allows students to explore possibility. The organization unlocks their potential by engaging with students using STEM related classes and mentor-supported programs. Two of their primary Make Academy Legacy Programs are Automotive Design Studio and Digital Art & Design.
Students learn about cutting-edge technologies while building electric cars in the Automotive Design Studio program. Mentors and a team of students work on projects from full automotive restoration and electric vehicle retrofitting, to the design, build and racing of Electrathon race cars. A national program, the Electrathon program is for high school and community college students, with events held regionally throughout the year. Student teams design, construct, test and develop competitive electric vehicles and compete with other students throughout the country.
Designing on multiple platforms in a creative environment lies the Digital Art & Design program. Students work together to produce, film and edit their own video projects, that can be seen on their YouTube channel. Students learn concepts in film production, digital photo and video, Adobe Creative Suite, as well as drone photography and 3D printing.
Additional programs MINDDRIVE has incorporated in their organization include; Welding & Fabrication, Battlebots, and Drone FPV Racing.
- Welding students are introduced to and taught the various types of welding, including Metal Inert Gas (MIG), Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG), and Metal Arc welding from a professional Iron Worker instructor. Mentors participate along with students to design and create pieces for their annual Art Garage design showcase.
- Designing and constructing robotics for Battlebots is another popular program. The course exposes them to the basics of modeling, design, planning, and control of robot systems using the Arduino open-source platform. It is designed to introduce the Arduino hardware and programming environment, and to get students started on building projects.
- Drone FPV Racing combines high-tech drones and high-speed racing. First person viewer/video (FPV) drone racing is a motorsport type where participants control “drones”, equipped with cameras while wearing head-mounted displays showing the live stream camera feed from the drones. Similar to full-size air racing the goal is to complete a set course as quickly as possible.
How important is an after-school program like this for students? MINDDRIVE uses challenging projects as metaphors for the real-life challenges students will or currently face today. “In addition to hard skills like welding and metal fabrication, coding, systems design, drone operation and digital content design,” Mike noted, “students learn soft skills like collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving, and leadership.”
MINDDRIVE is a project-based, experiential learning program and mentors are critical to the program. They work with the students to explore accomplishment, success and failure. Mike told me that “we welcome and encourage adults to volunteer as mentors – and while it is a commitment of time, it is exceptionally rewarding.” Mike has worked with MINDDRIVE for nearly a year and when I asked him what has been the greatest learning experience he said, “to see how the impact of self-determination has on our students’ self-esteem and confidence.” And for those who don’t feel like they fit in, watch this video, filmed and produced by the digital design students.