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Overcoming Obstacles to Learn with FlexFactor®

Earlier this month, 36 students at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Jose, California completed the FlexFactor program. But, these students were not just any students – they participated in the first customized version of FlexFactor Sprint for English Language Development (ELD). These hardworking students are not only learning English, they also carry a full load of regular high school classes. To fit into their busy schedules, a customized version of the four-week FlexFactor program was embedded in two ELD classes. FlexFactor exposes students to the education and career pathways leading to roles in advanced manufacturing while delivering on classroom learning objectives such as reading comprehension, persuasive argument development, and oral presentation.

Combining these learning objectives with the required level of technical understanding and entrepreneurship familiarity in the FlexFactor program posed a challenge for many of the student teams. However, they quickly demonstrated a capacity to overcome the language barrier and apply cutting-edge technology concepts to address a wide range of social and health issues that they chose to solve.

Students worked in small teams to identify a real-world problem, conceptualize a hardware device to address the problem, identify a target market for the product, and engage in customer discovery research. During the program, students visited Jabil’s Blue Sky Center to learn about product design and development, sourcing, and production, while gaining perspective on what it means to have a career in advanced manufacturing. “I really enjoyed visiting Jabil because the showroom examples, like the car, allowed me to see for myself how technology can be used to keep people safe. This is something I would like to work on,” said Elsy, a 9th grade student.

After visiting Jabil, the ELD classes spent time at NextFlex where they learned about flexible hybrid electronics, interacted with technical staff, and worked through their product conceptualization. Students also visited San Jose City College where they learned about certificate and degree programs, financial aid, and enrollment options.
FlexFactor’s project-based approach takes students beyond the traditional educational experience and provides an ideal platform to develop a young person’s passion and creative instincts while inspiring a mindset to take risks, grow into leadership roles, and work as a team. The program’s structured engagement with both education and career pathways ensures that these newly inspired students have clearly defined next steps on the horizon, catalyzing and orienting these future industry leaders, especially those from underrepresented populations.

The student’s inquisitive, thoughtful, and inventive natures were demonstrated during the final pitches, where the teams presented hardware solutions for a wide range of problems, including: the dangers of field labor in agricultural settings; physical access issues for handicapped people, and pickpocketing. The well-rehearsed final pitches were a testament to the teams’ hard work in structuring and presenting product concepts and business plans, and it was clear that the students had not only overcome the language barrier, they had fully grasped the meaning of emerging technology concepts, including printed circuitry, flexible substrates, and soft robotics.

Lincoln High School instructor Rashada Melendez said, “FlexFactor was an invaluable experience for my ELD students. It provided opportunities that they otherwise would never have had, and it inspired many of them to consider technical careers. Although FlexFactor took them out of their comfort zone, the journey provided an opportunity for them to discover that they can tackle a challenge. There is nothing more important than feeling confident in your success!”

Working with the ELD students was one of the most rewarding experiences to date for the entire NextFlex team. This customized FlexFactor Sprint iteration demonstrated first-hand the amazing range of possibilities for FlexFactor and the expansive reach that it has across diverse student populations. We look forward to delivering many versions of FlexFactor in the months and years ahead to help connect innovative students with amazing companies.

NextFlex Lincoln High School San Jose ELD FlexFactor Students

Lincoln High School ELD FlexFactor Students, May 2018