Urban Assembly Maker Academy




August 5, 2014


Interview: Ivy Anderson, Partnership Coordinator for the Urban Assembly Maker Academy(UAMA)

The School is located on the fourth floor at 411 Pearl Street in New York, just under the Brooklyn

Bridge.UAMA shares the building with the Murray Bergtraum High School for Business Careers,

The Early College for Advertising, and the High School for Emergency Management. UAMA will

share lunch, gym, and art periods with these schools.


Note to reader: UAMA had only received confirmation of its physical location a few weeks before this interview. Because of the pressing needs of school set-up, the Head of School, Luke Bauer, was not available for an interview at this time. Ms. Anderson volunteered her time for the tour and interview, adding that I was welcome to return once school was in session. The following reflects the content of the interview, some exact quotes and some of it restated. As Ms. Anderson is the source for most of the following, I have dispensed with quotationmarks.


The Student Population:  As of this date there are 120 ninth grade students enrolled in the school.

This population was selected through a lottery of all interested students in the Five Boroughs.

Enrollment is non-qualifying, which means that the student population is not pre-tested. There

may be Special Needs students, as well as, Exceptional Students in the student population.

Technical knowledge is not a pre-requisite. Each student receives a home visit in advance of the school year. The intention is to get to know the students and their home environmentment, to engage them in the mission of the school, and to give them a packet of "home work" assignments that is due the first day of class.


As a Career Technical Education (CTE) school, UAMA is required to have a theme with several pathways. In addition to the theme of Design Thinking, UAMA offers three pathways:

1. Interaction Design - "The Big Picture people who will design solutions"

2. Physical Computing - "Programmers or the people who will use and learn technology"

3. Digital Media - "People who will create media and work on the marketing side"


The logo is meant to remind one of "badging", which is currently very popular in education.

The logo is intended to evoke the kinds of practices the UAMA wants to cultivate in its students, namely Design Thinking. It represents the cycle of getting an idea, testing that idea, fitting the pieces together, and seeing the result. (Anderson, August 14, 2014, email communication)





Faculty: Six teachers on staff will be Science, Math, English Language Arts (ELA), Social Studies, CTE (Technology/Maker Instructor), and Special Education. Each of the faculty members has a strong background in project-based learning.


The Program: The focus of year one will be Design Thinking using the 5D approach. All teachers will use lesson plan templates that are built around Design Thinking. The courses will be taught as "challenges" that will be worked on in groups.

The day begins with a 40 minute advisory period, where the students check out their Chromebooks, work on teambuilding, and receive "entry documents" from their teachers. An "entry document" describes the asynchronous work that they will be doing with their team in the subjects of science, ELA, CTE, and Social Studies. The groups will take turns working on challenge-based projects in different subject areas. Math is the only subject that will meet as a discrete course.


After lunch and an alternating gym/art period, the students will work on their "playlists", individualized learning plans that will be assigned based on teacher observation and assessment. Playlists may include meetings with specific teachers or group members.


As a CTE school, UAMA will provide its students with work-based learning opportunities. In the first year, this will take the form of guest speakers from industry and meetings with mentors from UAMA Partner Companies. Eventually, the students will participate in interships in the field.


The Standards: The school will operate under the Common Core Standards, NY Department of Education Standards, and Maker Standards. The difficulty being that there are no published standards for Maker Schools. Therefore these standards are gleaned from existing technology education standards and industry standards. (DN: Anderson was not aware of ISTE NETS standards.)  In addition, the school is funded by a Carnegie Springpoint Schools Grant and must comply with its requirements, as well. The Springpoint Design Principles overlap with and supplement the other standards. This page on the Carnegie Springpoint website outlines the development of the UAMA.


In keeping with NY DoE standards, UAMA is a master-based program. Each teacher will define mastery in his/her subject area. They are hoping to receive a seat-time waiver within five years.


The school has a CTE Advisory Board that includes specialists in whole school design, work-based learning, and design thinking.


The Partners: The partners play an important role in this school. They are actively engaged in the design of the program and its on-going implementation. They inject industry standards in the school program. They encourage the development of skills that are typically missing in high school graduates. The goal being that UAMA graduates will move seamlessly into the creative workforce.

An example of the missing element is the ability to "fail forward" and to make meaning from failure.


Core Values: Curiosity, Empathy, Risk-taking, Self-awareness, and Resilience

The Partners were instrumental in generating this list.These may appear to be "soft skills", but Scott Anderson, the Chief Strategy Officer of Control Group, has under-scored their high value in 21st Century workers.


Founding Partner - Urban Assembly is a non-profit organization, founded in 1990 by Richard Kahan. Its purpose is to create uniquely designed schools that will help under-priviledged students succeed in high school and college. UAMA will be its 24th school.


The current partners are:


The MakerSpace: The school has a lab that is its dedicated Makerspace. At present it is filled with recycled desks from Fairleigh Dickenson University. UAMA plans to annex the room beyond the wall with windows as a computer lab.

The Makerspace will contain 3D printers, Arduino/Galileo projects, laser cutters, etc.
























UAMA students will participate in the 2014 Maker Faire in NYC and will visit other local Makerspaces. UAMA was invited to participate in the

2014 Maker Faire at the White House.


UAMA is a school in formation and a pathfinder in the field of Maker Education. I asked Ms. Anderson: "How do you know that you will succeed?"

Ms. Anderson believes that success will from from the energy of those who are involved with the project.  The Teachers are project-based learning specialists with a proven track record and tremendous enthusiam.  The work-based learning program is supported by very engaged partners who have made themselves extremely accessible during the school creation process and will continue to be involved in curriculum development and as mentors for the students. Ms. Anderson believes that UAMA students will have a head start in the workforce by virtue of the relationships that they will have established with exciting tenchnology and design companies and because of the types of skills they will have developed.

























 Initial Questions for Ivy Anderson

  • What was the genesis of the UA Maker Academy?

  • What makes it unique?

  • How, if at all, is it related to the Maker Movement?

  • What makes this school different from a regular high school with a Makerspace?

  • The school's mission is intriguing and somewhat unusual. What was its genesis?

  • What percentage of the day is allocated to Maker related activity?

  • How much space is allocated to the Maker lab?

  • What will success look like in one, five, ten years?

  • How many and what kinds of faculty will you hire for year one?

  • How many students are registered?

  • What is the role of the Urban Assembly and your other partners?


Follow-up Questions

  • What does the UAMA logo represent? (See above)

  • Do you see UAMA students as creating a PLE (personal learning environment) that will continue with them beyond graduation? (Unanswered)

  • Do you see the students developing Communities of Practice that will continue beyond graduation? (Unanswered)

  • Are ISTE NETS part of the school's technology standards or do you rely only on NY State standards? (See above)





Murray Bergtraum HS for Business Careers

Source: D. Nagler

UAMA logo on the 4th floor elevator doors

Source: D. Nagler


The Maker Classroom "Before"

Source: D.Nagler

Ivy Anderson, UAMA Partnership Coordinator standing next to the school banner

Source: D. Nagler