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Take a Look Around the Institutes at Wildwood

Wildwood Institute for STEM Research and Development (WISRD)

In the seven years since its founding, WISRD continues to live up to its mission to define problems and conduct scientific research to better understand problems and add knowledge to the community.

For its work on payload assembly and rocket propulsion, WISRD was honored with the 2020 NASA Judges’ Choice Award in NASA’s Student Launch project. The NASA award recognized WISRD team members for entering the best combination of payload introduction, vehicle design and construction, research paper, and public engagement in the competition. NASA Student Launch challenges middle school, high school, college, and university teams from across the United States to build and fly a high-powered amateur rocket carrying a complex payload to over 4,000 feet above the ground. The rocket then must descend and land safely before its scientific or engineering payload can begin its work. The competition draws teams from universities and high schools across the country.

Recent WISRD work also includes a project with RECON, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, and whose main goal is to detect objects whose orbits around the sun transit Neptune’s orbit. This work has led to the future establishment of an observatory which would house WISRD’s Meade LX200 telescope as well as the cosmic ray detector in Big Bear, California.

Another long-term project of WISRD is a salinity study and creation of a hydroponics lab to determine the maximum salinity threshold of butter lettuce in an agricultural setting. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture at University of California, Riverside, the hydroponics team is studying how the salinity levels will affect plant growth and overall health, how plants may be able to adapt to rising salinity levels, and how rising salinity levels in groundwater supply will affect the future of California’s agricultural industry.

Wildwood Institute for Social Leadership (WISL)

Since August 2019, WISL has been tackling the issue of educational equity by connecting with both nonprofit organizations and local LAUSD schools to research their diverse needs and implement customized programs based on findings. For example, WISL developed and conducts a weekly early literacy enhancement program in 6 TK/Kinder/1st grade classrooms total across two local Title 1 LAUSD schools, working with the classroom teachers to interactively read 3 books per week via zoom and engage the students in fun related musical physical activities. Through WISL’s partnership with Bookworm Global, these books then become the students’ to keep forever (WISL delivers them regularly to each individual classroom).  WISL members are also continuing the collaboration with non-Native English Speaking students at New Village Girls Academy (a LAUSD high school serving at-risk girls, many of whom are pregnant and/or parenting) to practice conversational English during active, customized and fun weekly Zoom meetings (begun during remote learning but deemed valuable enough to continue once school resumed in person).

Since many social issues fall under the educational equity sphere, WISL also works within many other areas of need for increased youth-led social leadership (i.e. homelessness, systems of incarceration, foster care, etc.) and has several exciting ongoing and future collaborations in the works. One such project is WISL’s work with The SAM Initiative, a giving circle in Los Angeles. For the 2021-22 school year, WISL was invited by SAM to fully participate in their funding cycle in order to include the insights and feedback of local engaged and informed youth in their entire decision making process. WISL worked closely with SAM to help systematize and operationalize their LOI (Letter Of Interest), Fast Pitch, RFP (Request For Proposal), Site Visit, Due Diligence and final funding decision making process in both their fall and spring cycles, providing WISL the opportunity to learn as much as possible about - and to connect with - leaders and organizations in the nonprofit sector related to social good through SAM.

Additionally, for the 2021-22 school year, WISL is leading Wildwood’s second consecutive Institute-run Senior Seminar entitled SPA (Social Problems in America), a natural extension of WISL’s work to continue to develop the Wildwood Institute Model.

Wildwood Institute for Entrepreneurship (WIE)

Founded in 2019, the Wildwood Institute for Entrepreneurship quickly identified itself as a community of entrepreneurs, designers, and makers.

Members of WIE work in a series of three-week “sprint cycles,” where they set goals and determine tasks that need to be achieved to meet those goals. During the three-week sprint, a process that is used throughout the world for business development, they work on those tasks and at the end of the cycle, present the products of their work to the Institute members, reflect on their work, and elicit and consider feedback from their colleagues as they prepare for the next sprint.

Current projects or businesses in development include game design and playtesting, services and events, jewelry design, and textiles and fashion, with an eye toward products and solutions that will make the world better. For example, inspired by his recent internship, Huck F. ‘22’s video game prototype is designed to mimic how cancer can spread throughout the body. In addition to focusing on individual projects, members of the Institute work together to support and collaborate with each other. Not all members are experts in coding, but those members that are skilled in that area are collaborating with others in their projects. As they expand their own skills, they help to further the projects of their peers.

When asked what about the Institute makes it meaningful and relevant to the real world, members of WIE shared:

“When you are making pancakes, the first one isn’t perfect so to be able to make that first pancake early in life is really important.”

“WIE is a really powerful opportunity, it is really unique and I think it is an amazing space to make dreams come true at a young age. It gives a step out into the real world and real business without having to risk everything on one idea.”

“WIE is a space to nurture ideas that you think are impossible or unattainable and get them to the point where they really are something that can be concrete and real.”

Click here to learn more about the Wildwood Institute Model.

  • fall 2021