Left to right, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Empow Studios staff: Jeremia Arella-Tunik, Leonid Tunik, David Gutierrez, Paul Girardo, President and CEO of Mass Development: Lauren Liss
‘Empow Labs’ xR Collaborative Space set to open
Empow receives MassDevelopment grant to provide community learning and a collaborative workspace in the Newton-Needham Innovation District
Newton, MA – Empow Studios, a provider of K-12 STEM curriculum and enrichment programs, has received a grant that will allow it to expand its mission and create a collaborative space for adults and teens at its Newton studio location at 180 Needham Street. “‘Empow Labs’ is a community learning and innovation space focused on virtual, augmented, and mixed reality technologies and related fields of 3D design and modeling, robotics, wearable technology, sensors, IOT (Internet of Things) and human-machine interfaces,” says Empow Studios Founder Leonid Tunik.
Empow Studios, which opened the Newton learning center in June of 2018, was awarded a MassDevelopment Collaborative Workspace Program Fit-Out Grant of $89,931 to match its current investment. The grant will support modifications to the space and new equipment that will allow it to continue its K-12 technology education mission while also serving an entirely new group of learners. This project continues Empow’s track record of innovation in education, after a recent launch of Talent Box, an online platform that helps teachers bring STEM projects into the classroom.
“The space will serve pre-professional learners, young professionals, entrepreneurs, software and game developers, career changers, nearby businesses, educators, artists, hobbyists, retirees – really, anyone who wants to learn the new technologies hands-on,” notes Tunik who says there will be a variety of classes, services, training, mentorship and consulting opportunities, along with events, workshops and hackathon-style sessions. “We’ll offer something for learners at any level, from novices who would like to gain basic understanding of today’s technologies, to teens and young adults who want to explore potential careers, to professionals looking to develop, produce, and test their projects,” adds Tunik.
Empow Studios is located in a vibrant business community called the N-Squared Innovation District, which includes parts of both Newton and Needham and is known to have a highly educated population and to be a leading area for innovation.
“The N-Squared area has a growing number of enrichment programs for the K-12 market, but it lacks a true maker environment for all ages,” says Chuck Tanowitz, director of the N-Squared Initiative, who believes the Empow Labs workspace will complement the Newton Free Library makerspace, which was recently expanded in the library’s teen section and has 3D printers, but limited capacity.
“The digital space proposed by Empow is exactly the kind of opportunity we need in the N-Squared Innovation District,” adds Tanowitz. “Not only will this engage with the student population here, but it will also have a positive impact on the professional opportunities available to residents of the Needham-Newton area, and will also benefit employers in the N-Squared district by creating opportunities for workforce development.”
“Our hope is that users of the space will derive new STEM interests, broader technology/science/engineering knowledge and new career opportunities as a direct result of using the proposed space,” says Tunik who credits a robust Boston-area EdTech community, especially LearnLaunch Accelerator, with Empow’s development. Jean Hammond, cofounder and general partner of LearnLaunch Accelerator notes, “Empow graduated our first cohort and has consistently delivered a rich set of STEM programs. Today, education at all levels is being reshaped rapidly by immersive user interfaces such as augmented reality and virtual reality, so it is very exciting to see Empow delivering these capabilities in Newton.”
The Empow Labs addition to Empow’s Newton location is expected to be completed in early 2019.