LIA Showcase - A Summer with the Timothy Smith Network

For my leadership in action I got the amazing opportunity to volunteer at the Timothy Smith Network in Boston Massachusetts. I spent time developing my leadership by teaching, networking, making new friends and much more. Despite some challenges, I started my project with optimism and curiosity.
LIA Showcase - A Summer with the Timothy Smith Network

The TSN for short is a non-profit organization whose mission is to teach underprivileged high school students in the greater Boston area about STEAM subjects to combat the digital divide. The TSN has sponsorships with many well-known tech companies such as Microsoft and formLabs as well as connections to local industries in STEM such as Boston Dynamics, ABB and MassRobotics. As a Robotics and Mechatronics student, this made me very excited to join the TSN in their mission. In addition, I had never taught nor volunteered before so this was truly an experience which would take me out of my comfort zone.

On my first day I checked in to Tufts university accommodation with my fellow Laidlaw scholars. The Tufts university campus was really beautiful and it was great to see some of the facilities that they had for robotics as we were shown around. Though we had some difficulties settling in, such as getting our ID cards, I would say that these challenges made the experience even more valuable. Leading during uncertainty was definitely the headline of this experience.

My first week started with an introduction to the staff and students. Most of this week I spent collaborating with the other scholars to agree on a teaching curriculum and content for the courses designed to most benefit the students. This developed my leadership by having to think about how best to explain and teach 3D design from a fundamental level. Overall I believe this improved my understanding on this subject and got me to think about what style of teaching I most resonated with when I was being taught 3d modelling.

One of my presentation slides on my first day of teaching

In the third week, after a lot of preparation, I taught 3D modelling in TinkerCAD and Fusion 360. Teaching for the first time definitely challenged me to remain confident and enthusiastic for the students as well as taught me to use concise language and remain patient by having empathy. On top of this, I constantly adapted my lesson plan to align with the pace of the students’ progression and the feedback from the students each day. This challenged my adaptability as a leader and made me focus on ways to improve and reflect on my teaching.

On the weekends and during my free time, the other scholars and I went sightseeing and socialised. I formed many new friendships and networking skills which I believe will be very useful in my future career ambitions. I believe that through my interactions I have become more extroverted and more open to try new experiences and meet new people.

A picture from our sightseeing trip to Harvard University

My highlight of my leadership in action project was being able to set-up and use a formLabs Form 3 3D printer which was an exciting introduction into the world of resin printing. I used the printer to 3D print models of the keychains that I had the student’s design. Their reaction when receiving their keychains and my reaction to seeing the amazing work that they were able to accomplish in so little time was an extremely rewarding experience and a feeling that I have not often felt.

The student designed 3D printed keychains being processed

All in all, this leadership in action project felt like it was packed full of personal growth and development along with putting into practice all of the skills I had acquired from my Leadership training year. I could not have been happier with the experiences I’ve had on this project as well as the people I’ve met and the opportunities I’ve had to change the lives of students in a subject I am passionate about.

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