learn / 2019

Compton Innovation Center

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Hacker Fund

Hacker Fund is building the first innovation center in Compton for the following purposes: (1) provide thousands of students from Compton Unified School District (CUSD) with career pathways in S.T.E.A.M. education, (2) promote expansion of the CUSD Career Technical Education Program, and (3) create a homebase for entrepreneurship and professional development for Compton stakeholders. This center will feature classes/workshops, access to mentors, prototyping equipment, and coworking space.


What does your organization do?

We empower community stakeholders at every stage of their life to learn and innovate by offering access to new skills, specialized machinery and tools, and space to build technology projects.

Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

  • Compton Unified School District

Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.

Our organization was born in 2014 when we learned that schools in Los Angeles did not have the experts available to provide industry-relevant computer science education. We saw a need to empower students to explore pathways to careers in S.T.E.A.M. and entrepreneurship in ways that their schools could not provide. We hypothesized that the best way to spark inspiration in a high school was to expose its students to their first hackathon, a 24-hour innovation sprint led by industry mentors who teach workshops and offer an environment for project-based learning. We recruited mentors from Microsoft, Moxtra, SpaceX, and more! With over 50 students attending their first hackathon and exclaiming they wanted “more Hacker Fund, please,” we decided that our greatest impact could be created when we partnered with the school administration, rather than circumventing or replacing the school system; thus, our Career Pathway Program was born!

By creating a framework that schools could adopt, we were able to inspire a student like Mariano Bonilla to pursue a career in engineering. We met Mariano when he was a Roosevelt High School student and we taught him to write his first lines of code at Code:Roosevelt, a hackathon for the Boyle Heights community that took place at the Salesian Boys and Girls Club. Last week, our founder bumped into Mariano at the LA Regional FIRST Robotics Competition, a competition in which students build a robot that competes in an engineering challenge. Mariano mentioned he is now studying computer science in college and actively returns to his Roosevelt High School to mentor more students so that they can follow in his footsteps: a pathway to college, employment, and a career in S.T.E.A.M. He plans to work for a technology company when he graduates and is also considering starting his own company as the technical cofounder. Our Career Pathway Program was built upon an Isaac Newton Quote: “If I could have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulder of giants.” The purpose of our Compton Innovation Center is to provide the giants whose shoulders students like Mariano can stand on when they are looking to see what can lie ahead if they pursue a career in S.T.E.A.M. through Hacker Fund.

Which of the learn metrics will your submission impact?​

  • Students’ immersion in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math content
  • Youth unemployment and underemployment
  • Student education pipeline

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • South LA
  • City of Compton

How will your project make LA the best place to learn?

Our team has 10+ years of collective experience in furnishing and managing nonprofit innovation centers and over 30+ collective years in nonprofit management experience. Our team members have developed innovation centers with the following organizations: LA Makerspace, CTRL Collective, and Rhubarb Studios. We tested our models for innovation centers through our Career Pathway Program and according to Mayor Eric Garcetti, our “commitments to innovation, learning and development have been of great benefit to our City” (2017). We plan to bring this same type of creativity and excellence to Compton by building the Compton Innovation Center.

The Compton Unified School District (CUSD) serves 25,000+ students at 36 sites and is in the midst of a dramatic turnaround, marked by increases in student achievement rates, a graduation rate nearing 90%, dramatic facilities improvements, and a focus on S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, technical arts, and math) throughout all schools. CUSD cannot achieve this type of turnaround without professionals who can provide the industry mentorship and access to state-of-the-art equipment. Our project provides this capacity-building support.

The Compton Innovation Center will provide project-based learning opportunities for students of CUSD which will be curated by Hacker Fund staff. Students and local entrepreneurs who desire to apply their education to creating a prototype will receive capacity-building services including access to the coworking and maker labs, office hours with expert mentors, and fund development support. Entrepreneurs building nonprofit technologies will have access to fiscal sponsorship services and demo days.

The new center will serve the 25,000+ students who attend CUSD and will provide them with a homebase from which they can develop their professional skills and their startup ideas. This center will empower Compton stakeholders to prototype technology projects, hire locally, and serve their city for years to come. By creating this center, Hacker Fund will help develop the local Compton economy and will ensure positive multi-generational change.

From December 2018 through June 2019, we are procuring equipment donations and financial support for the development and operation of the innovation center. From April to July 2019, we will create industry-relevant educational curriculum, recruit staff members, and train personnel. In August 2019, we will complete our build-out of the center and will begin daily operation.

This project will make Los Angeles (LA) county the best place to LEARN by democratizing the access to resources for technology and entrepreneurship education. The Compton Innovation Center will bring cutting-edge knowledge and educational tools to a sector of LA County that historically has been under-developed. LA is the best place to LEARN insofar as those who have the least amount of access are able to participate and operate as drivers of economic development.

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Lateral application (testing feasibility of a proven action/solution to a new issue or sector)

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

Hacker Fund is a data-driven organization. In order to assess our success/failures, growth, and user satisfaction, we document our metrics via survey responses and reports. We have several quantifiable metrics that we will measure at various intervals. These include:

  • Number of innovation center members (members entering our education pipeline)

  • % of students that graduate through Career Technical Education (CTE)

pathways

  • % of students that are employed after enrolling as member in the Compton Innovation Center

  • Number of community event participants

  • Number of technology accelerator applicants

  • $ amount in funding raised by innovation

center members

  • Jobs created by cohort members

  • Volunteer opportunities created by

cohort members

  • Number of people served by

organizations in cohort

  • Number of prototypes developed in the

innovation center

  • Number of funders attending Demo Day(s)

  • Net-promoter score with innovation

center members

  • % of students that graduate with an

interest in S.T.E.A.M. careers