Award #58: Project Ignite


Consider a high school education in which students design an iPhone app, build a hologram projector, construct a minecraft server, and design quadcopters. This is not your mama’s high school curriculum! Project Ignite is a student run outreach organization at Carnegie Mellon University offering a project-based educational program for high school students in the Pittsburgh area. Their vision includes giving all students, regardless of socioeconomic standing or prior academic achievement, the opportunity to participate in activities not offered in a standard high school setting. Project advisors–volunteers from the CMU student body—act as mentors and provide guidance when needed; however, high school students remain the driving force throughout the process. Students, not the advisors, brainstorm possibilities, map out plans, and do the legwork in order to achieve a shared goal.

Sara Adkins, Vice President of Finance for Project Ignite, is a CMU student herself, double majoring in Music Technology and Computer Science. Her free time is spent building robots, playing guitar and inventing new instruments. She helped to start this project partially because she felt her own high school education lacked hands-on experiences. Sara reflects:

I am passionate about intersecting the fields of technology with the arts and wanted to help bridge that gap for current high schoolers. In particular, Project Ignite targets students from underprivileged schools who lack funding and resources to support students in pursuing their individual interests outside of the classroom curriculum. Enriching the lives of students and providing a relevant education will make Pittsburgh a more awesome place to live by developing more creative and knowledgeable citizens.

Trustee Mike Capsambelis is excited about the potential of Project Ignite:

Sara’s idea will serve high school students in the greater Pittsburgh area by providing the funds, knowledge and mentorship to pursue an interest in technology through project-based learning—opportunities that are too often unavailable to students in the region.

The $1000 Awesome Pittsburgh grant enables project groups to receive a budget for materials to help them realize a project of their own design. Project Ignite will consist of 10 workshops held in the 2017 Spring semester, wherein students meet with their mentors once a week in three hour workshops. The project hopes to be able to fund 10 student projects in the upcoming year.