For students focusing on the “hard sciences,” there’s a very clear career path after they leave the confines of school. The line between a passion for engineering and potential careers is easy to draw.
But for students whose passion lends itself more toward the art studio then the science lab, how they can use those skills to make a living it isn’t always a clear picture. That’s why Colorado Creative Careers Student Organization wants to be able to show kids how their skills with a pen and on the stage can lend themselves to a future career in the boardroom and the engineering lab.
Colorado Creative Careers Student Organization (C3SO) is the first in the nation career & technical education student organization specifically designed for creative career-minded students. So far, there’s 25 schools in the state that have a C3SO group with hundreds of members in total.
Unlike a student club at the K-12 level, C3SO is specifically focused on preparing kids for a career using their artistic talent in areas like engineering and space travel. Robert Epstein, the organizer of C3SO, said the goal is to get kids who are creative minded to think about how those skills can be applied to a career path, especially in the sciences and engineering.
“It is important not just to create something that works, but it has to be functional as well,” Epstein said. “Those students have the creativity to address user needs when designing a product.”
The group had one of its first meetings on April 6 at Wings Over the Rockies to show a handful of C3SO students how their “soft skills” can be applied to the hard sciences and help come up with the group’s first statewide meeting for next year.
But along with planning the next stages of the group, the students and teachers gathered had an important mission: help design a new kitchenette for Epstein’s 91-year-old mother.
The students listened to an interview with Epstein’s mother about the issues she has with her current kitchen set up. Then working as separate teams, the students used the interview to zero in on what are the main issues she has with the current design, ways in which those could be addressed, and design a prototype. They groups were then visited by a student role-playing as Epstein’s mother and used that feedback to refine the way their designs worked.
At one point, the kids were encourage to think about this issue as a fictional character, from Yoda to Batman, and think about how they would address the problem. That idea of approaching the problem as someone else entirely is something that resonated with Ryan Yancey, a junior at Mead High School in Longmont.
Yancey, 16, is passionate about drama and audio/visual work and wants to pursue career that involves both. And he said the idea of stepping out of his shoes and putting on the ones worn by Batman, as funny as it was, also was something that opened up his eyes to approaching old problems in a new way.
“It’s interesting to think about really. To put more time into the way you think,” Yancey said. “That’s not something I would have thought to do. But it helped me come up with a solution. And that way of thinking can really help with any problem and solution.”
It might be silly to think that role-playing as a Jedi or a superhero could help show kids how their creativity can lead to a career in engineering or science. But it’s exercises like that which help students understand that their creative flair is an important skill when they start to consider field paths.
“Those type of exercises helps make that bridge between creating and the business world and actually being able to make it. So many kids think well I have to go wait tables because I don’t know how to be a professional, creative person,” Laura Seward, a teacher at Westminster High School. “So much of education is the exact opposite of being creative. You have to think logically, you have to know the right answer. Not, let’s go do this thing where there’s 20 potential answers and there’s no one right way. And you have to work through it to find out what works best.”
“These are the skills industry is in need of. This is what they’re missing,” Seward said.