UML alum and iHub member Jonathan Aguilar leads a 3D printing demonstrations for Haverhill High School students.
UML alum and iHub member Jonathan Aguilar leads a 3D printing demonstrations for Haverhill High School students.

By Stephanie Guyotte

The group of Haverhill High School students looked at the bag of tinker toys in front of them as UML Rist Differencemaker™ Co-Op Nick Jarek explained the challenge. They needed to build a vehicle to safely get their tinker toy person down a mountain – which would be a wooden ramp along a chair – and there were several rules and limitations on what they had access to and how they could do it.

Sitting at tables at the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub Haverhill, the teens quickly got work – turning round pieces into wheels, creating ways to secure their “person”, and building a durable structure, while Nick through new obstacles their way.

It was a 45-minute lesson in problem solving and thinking like an entrepreneur as part of the iHub Demo Day event – where Haverhill High School students got an immersive experience in UMass Lowell at the Harbor Place campus in Haverhill.

One by one the groups of students tested their vehicle down the track – laughing and cheering each other on. In the end, they reflected on the activity – how they had to problem solve quickly, work as a team, use limited resources, and be creative. All important skills for any entrepreneurial thinker.

“I enjoyed the building part of the field trip because it helped me see how fast and efficiently my mind worked under the pressure of a time limit and various unexpected challenges to come up with new ideas and in a team environment,” said Alexis Namulinda, a Haverhill High School junior.

The students, mostly sophomores and all from HHS’ Tech academy are studying a curriculum that includes Computer Science and Information Technology. The opportunity to hear about those offerings from UMass Lowell was part of the reason so many students wanted to come on this field trip. And for more of the 54 students, it was the first school field trip since before COVID.

Following the activity with Differencemaker, the students split into groups and learned about UMass Lowell pathways and career opportunities. UMass Lowell alum Jonathan Aguilar, founder of 3D printing design from CADSPARC based at the iHub, gave students a Virtual Reality demo showing his virtual print capabilities.

The students also met with Seth Cordes, founder and CEO of IT company Uncommon Catalyst, who recently graduate from the Innovation Hub to a nearly 5,000 square foot office two floors up. Seth shared his experience starting a company in his basement and growing it to more than 15 employees, thanks to the resources of the iHub. He shared how students can turn their love of computers and technology into various career paths, including IT work and entrepreneurship.

“It is wonderful for our students to be able to have experiences like this - where they see how their education ties into the work world and can explore college and career possibilities while learning and having fun,” said Lisa Hunt, Work-Based Learning Specialist at Haverhill High School.

A panel of current UMass Lowell students spoke to the high schoolers about academics, campus life and opportunities provided by UML.

“Get involved – there are so many clubs and organizations for any interest. You’ll meet so many people and you’ll have such great opportunities,” said William Lefebvre, a UML sophomore and environmental science major.