JSTEAM gives students the opportunity to see the connections between academic knowledge and Judaism in the everyday world. Students create solutions that are evaluated by aesthetic, cultural, and ethical values rather than mere functionality. For example, students design personal work aprons while examining how work (in addition to works) is a part of Judaism and the sanctification of daily life.
Our students will work together in teams to solve problems, be able to evaluate their effort from perspectives beyond the purely technical, emerge comfortable with projects requiring engineering knowledge and skills, and derive a sense of personal accomplishment from their efforts.
In Jewish tradition, we are taught to give the best of ourselves. Many of the mitzvot we are commanded to perform are not reciting a blessing or lighting a candle, but practical, active exercises requiring creativity and thoughtfulness. Planning a sukkah requires analyzing for suitability, sensibility, and functionality while making an expression of one's commitment to a Jewish life. Even using store-bought parts, the construction requires working within constraints of halacha, cost and available space. Finally, the acts of decoration and use echo what the mitzvah means to us, our community, and our children.
Think of craftsmanship, and you are likely to imagine a fine woodworker bent over a handmade cabinet, but crafting a well-written sentence or building an elegant experiment requires just as much devotion as making a perfect dovetail joint. In a mass-produced world where ease, cost, and speed of manufacturing rule, students do not often see examples of craftsmanship. Often they judge quality by cost or brand, not through an understanding of what it takes to do something well. The objective is not to do a quick job that is good enough; it is to learn the elements that create quality work. Too many times the letter grade becomes the only measurement of the activity, and the student's personal satisfaction centers only upon that rating.
Work and its expression are as essential to Judaism as religious studies. The Torah devotes more space to the description of the Mishkan and its construction than to the creation of the Universe. In the story, the skills required are enumerated and vast, covering almost every type of handwork, and there is the suggestion that the fabrication itself was nothing less than miraculous. The real miracle here was not that they built something from a plan, but instead brought forth the best from themselves, creating such a wonder from the intensity of love in their hearts.
Devotion to excellence in work is an acquired skill that will never fade. Our goal is not to train software engineers, rocket scientists, or even welders, but to make confident, well-rounded adults. Our students should be driven by an internal vision of quality, and have a lifelong love of learning that will allow them to hone the skills to make their own contribution to repairing our world.
Opened in the Fall of 2017, the Schlanger Thinker Lab supports students in learning basic engineering and technology skills through guided and independent work. The lab will allow for computer-assisted design, engineering, and manufacturing using a variety of materials. Equipment and tools will be available for supervised student use after completion of basic safety training and core skills training. The lab includes a 20"x12" 45-watt laser cutter, multiple 3D printers, one meter by one meter CNC table mill and a smaller CNC mini-mill, 24" vinyl cutter, and other essential hand and power tools. It incorporates advanced air filtration and other systems to ensure a safe learning environment. Our thanks to the Schlanger Family Foundation which provided much of the funding for our new lab.
The Thinker Lab will be open during most lunch periods for student use.
Come and see the things we make here!