Making the Future

September 26, 2012, by Mark Greenlaw


One year ago this month, at World Maker Faire 2011 at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI), Cognizant announced its Making the Future education initiative.   Making the Future seeks to inspire young learners to pursue science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) and the arts disciplines by creating fun, hands-on learning opportunities.  Cognizant was one of the first companies to theme its educational and philanthropic initiatives based on the Maker Movement, thanks largely to our ongoing collaboration with NYSCI and its CEO, Margaret Honey.

I was visiting Margaret at NYSCI last February while formulating a strategy and theme for our program when Margaret suggested the Maker Movement – and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit my first response was “what’s the Maker Movement?”  She proceeded to tell me about Makers, Maker Faires, and the do-it-yourself and do-it-with-others movement that not only could pull (rather than push) kids into STEM and the arts, but also emphasizes design, creativity, and innovation.  I also learned that our CEO, Francisco D’Souza, a member of NYSCI Board of Trustees, had attended the first day of World Maker Faire in 2010 with his young son, and loved it so much he came back the next day and stayed all day.   And that was the start.

I’ve had an opportunity to collaborate with amazing people this year since being introduced to the Maker community and what struck me with each new introduction was how intelligent, creative, committed and authentic each of these amazing people are, and how much I enjoyed working with them and having my own eyes opened to the joy of Making and Maker Faire.  I’ve rekindled the Maker in me, having done a fair amount of woodworking, motorcycle repair, and bicycle repair growing up (I was a bicycle mechanic all through college).


I bought several kits at last year’s World Maker Faire, including Joey Hudy’s LED Cube Arduino shield, taught my two daughters to solder, and helped them build several kits.  Using Becky Sterns’ LED Bike Patch project on Make Projects as a guide, I worked with my two daughters to make Lilypad Arduino light-up clothing and banners.

I subsequently turned this into a curriculum, which I called “TechnoSwag”, and through Cognizant’s partnership with Citizen Schools, I taught sixth graders at the Irving Middle School in Roslindale Massachusetts how to create a cool e-textile project using the Lilypad Arduino.  It was an amazing experience and I think I may have learned as much from these amazing kids as they learned from me.

These relationships and experiences informed my understanding of the tremendous impact that Making can have on children.  Based on this understanding, we formulated the concept of our Making the Future afterschool and summer programs.  We’ve given 10 grants to run programs as community organizations around the US, at places such as Dreamyard Academy (Bronx), Children’s Aid Society (Harlem), Newark Museum, Detroit Public Library, and Mt. Elliott Makerspace (Detroit).  Children tackle projects like 2D modeling and digital fabrication using a vinyl cutter, 3D modeling and 3D Printing, electronic kits, Arduino projects, Scratch programming, hydroponics, and other things.  Cognizant’s grants cover tools, materials, instructor stipends, and other important things.

I never realized how important snacks are in the after-school world! One of our principles, driven by Dale’s input, is that kids should be able to keep and take home whatever they make, extending Making into the community. The feedback from these programs has been very positive, and Cognizant was pleased to announce this week that we are doubling the number of program grants this year.

 We also launched our Making the Future college scholarship program earlier this year, and awarded the first wave of $5000 annual college scholarships.  Instead of submitting an essay or grades, applicants submit a 3 minute video of something they’ve made. We saw some really cool projects, and we’ve posted some of the winners on our Facebook page.  We are kicking off the 2012-2013 scholarship period on October 1, and hope to see many more submissions this year by our March 31 deadline.

In addition to these programs, we’ve made substantial commitments, including financial, in-kind services, and employee volunteerism to our lead non-profit partners, including Citizen Schools, the Engineering is Elementary program at the Museum of Science, Boston, and with New York Hall of Science.  Cognizant has funded NYSCI’s Makerspace, a 1,200-square-foot permanent area where schools, families, and aspiring Makers can learn the tools and techniques of physical and digital Making in a collaborative setting.  If you are attending World Maker Faire, I encourage you to drop in and see this Makerspace.

And finally, we were very proud to be a founding sponsor of the Maker Education Initiative, and help establish this amazing new non-profit with great partners like O’Reilly, Pixar, and Intel.   A highlight of my career was being on stage at Clinton Global Initiative with AnnMarie and Carlos Contreras of Intel as President Clinton announced our

commitment to Maker Corps, which is MakerEd’s initiative to hire and train 1400 college-aged people over the next 3 years to coach and mentor young makers around the country.


To mark this amazing year, at this weekend’s World Maker Faire, we will be celebrating both the kids from our afterschool and summer programs and college scholarship winners.  In addition to sponsoring the Young Maker’s Pavilion, Cognizant will showcase young makers from our afterschool and summer programs who will teach attendees to make and create fun things using electronics, digital fabrication tools, open source hardware, and the Scratch programming language.  Two of our 2012 scholarship recipients will also be on hand to demonstrate their winning projects.  It should be a great event for our young makers.  And I’m pleased to have the opportunity to lead a session called “Meet the Young Makers”, where I’ll interview six young makers from across the US and beyond.  This session will be on the Make Live stage Sunday at noon.

It’s been an amazing first year for Cognizant’s Making the Future program, and for me personally.  It’s been extremely rewarding to meet and collaborate with so many amazing Makers and organizations committed to Making, and to see firsthand the positive impact this can have on our children.




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