January 05, 2017

Report from the Studio: Mentoring the Next Generation of Designers

KieranTimberlake's Spark Class of 2016.

As part of KieranTimberlake's commitment to dedicate 1% of its time to community service and engagement, the Community Involvement group collaborates with nonprofit organizations on pro-bono projects of various scales. In this Report from the Studio, Community Involvement member Theresa Starrs discusses the group's involvement with Spark.

For the past three years KieranTimberlake has partnered with Spark, a mentoring program that pairs local professionals with middle school students. While Spark helps these students more actively engage with their education and explore possible career paths, the program also strengthens the community by encouraging volunteerism and community involvement among its mentors.  
Each fall, KieranTimberlake's Community Involvement group hosts two learning workshops that help give students an understanding of the field of architecture as a whole. These workshops include tours of the firm's wood shop, computer-controlled cutting machine (also known as a CNC router), 3D printers, and laser cutter. While these tours primarily give students insight into the numerous tools we use as architects, they also help highlight the versatile career paths available in the field of architecture. Also in the workshop sessions, students learn the importance of settings goals and creating a strong resume before they get to put their building skills to the test with a competition over who can build the tallest tower.

Architect Isaac Bracher walks Chasen through Photoshop and InDesign, programs that he later used to design his own logo.
Photo courtesy of Spark

After this open house of sorts, KieranTimberlake volunteers are paired up with a Spark student in the spring for a ten week program. Once a week, each student and his or her mentor meet at the studio to create and develop a project that highlights the student's interests, with the goal of the students presenting their projects to their parents and fellow students at the end of the program. These projects have included everything from creating a new sneaker design using Rhino, Vray, and Photoshop, drafting a museum meant to display graffiti, and designing, planning, and 3D printing an entire city.

For us as mentors, these ten weeks are definitely the most exciting. At their age, I honestly had no idea what an architect did, let alone considered it as a potential career path, so watching the students gain a greater understanding of architecture as a profession as they formulate their own creative projects is incredibly gratifying. The most rewarding aspect, however, has to be seeing the students light up when they get to engage with the various technologies we have in the studio to bring their ideas and designs to life.  
To learn more about Spark, or to find out how you can become a mentor, click here