Anchorage School District Enlists New Orleans Startup to Advance Its Schools

About the author: Antonio Alonzo is a Communications Manager at IDIYA and Curator of the Global Shapers New Orleans hub.

School administrators and educators from across Anchorage, Alaska recently took a trip to New Orleans. They met with IDIYA staff in November for a generous helping of Southern hospitality and advanced manufacturing.

IDIYA, a New Orleans makerspace that equips community members and schools with skills and tools for design and making, previously linked up with the school district at a Career and Technical Education (CTE) conference in New Orleans. Anchorage and IDIYA proceeded to hatch a plan to immerse ten Anchorage school leaders in advanced manufacturing training and excursions around New Orleans.

The educators made it to New Orleans by November. They visited the NASA Michoud rapid manufacturing facility, the only NASA facility of its kind, where they witnessed the new SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft currently being constructed. They toured Solomon Group’s fabrication facility where they learned about tools, skills, and machines that are used for advanced, custom manufacturing. Solomon Group is a renowned events production and manufacturing company known for their lighting and exhibit design.

The Anchorage school leaders also took a field trip to two recently unveiled makerspaces, Tulane Makerspace and the makerspace at St. Martin’s Episcopal School that IDIYA recently constructed.

On Saturday, the group convened at IDIYA makerspace to learn about advanced manufacturing subjects like CNC milling, laser cutting, 3D printing, CAD software, and programming microcontrollers. The Anchorage school district aims to incorporate these disciplines at the middle and high school level as part of a CTE training program that will help their students find high quality employment opportunities available without a college degree. CTE is a 21st century workforce development concept that goes further than traditional options like STEAM education or shop class.

In addition to the hands-on experiences and rigorous training, IDIYA also took the school leaders around the city for leisure and fun. Every night the group enjoyed dining at a different New Orleans restaurant, including Cochon, District Donuts, Parkway Poboys, and Restaurant des Familles.

“This is just the beginning. We’re offering this to school districts throughout the country: both to have an entertaining time in New Orleans and to go through a rigorous training program with IDIYA,” says Domenic Giunta, IDIYA CEO.

Moving forward, IDIYA will continue to provide advice and consulting to the Anchorage school district. As the district’s CTE program develops, IDIYA may assist with designing or building their makerspaces, asit has done for a number of New Orleans schools.