‘Production & Promise’ Part 1: Bluestamp Engineering’s Inaugural Class

‘Production & Promise’ is a series of articles by Paul West, author of First Cause, who spent a few days with BSE’s 2011 class.

Taking an elevator to the modest office space within which Bluestamp Engineering holds its daily operations, I had little idea what to expect; its co-founder, my friend Robin Mansukhani, had told me a fair amount about Bluestamp’s mission and operations, but that was my sole preparation. Peering into a rectangular room full of boxes, wires, curious contraptions and casually-dressed high-school students, I saw a scene that many would find hard to interpret at first.

Students of varying ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, not to mention varying stylistic descriptions, were tinkering at their work stations, talking amongst themselves, huddled over their laptops or dodging each other around the room. The energy was vibrant and scatterbrained, but interestingly unified; it didn’t take long to recognize that these kids were not only genuinely committed to their projects, but genuinely on board with the experiment they were all part of.

The experiment is the brainchild of Mr. Mansukhani and his friend, fellow Case Western graduate David Young. The objective? To expose a broader range of young people to engineering. Bluestamp’s ten students are immersed in a six-week internship of sorts, where they gather for several hours each weekday to work on individual projects–the goal being for them to ‘learn by doing’. It’s akin to on-the-job training, only their margin of error is a little more relaxed (which is to say, nobody’s life is in peril if their wind turbine or robotic arm malfunction) and the instructor-student ratio is a hard-to-find 2.5 to 1. The students are disparate, coming from the Bronx and the Upper East Side and New Jersey, and many will be happy to read that there are several young women in the program as well–counterbalancing the idea of engineering as a ‘male’ province.

In the coming weeks, we’re going to meet each of Bluestamp’s first class of students. We’ll learn a bit about their backgrounds and individual personalities, and we’ll get to read, in their own words, how they feel about the experiment they’re part of. Stay tuned; some of these kids might go down in history.

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