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Apprentice Learning

Boston 8th graders become Wyss Institute "apprentices"

Apprentice Learning
Hawolul shows off her science fair project, inspired by her time at the Institute, to the Wyss staff who participated in the Apprentice Learning program. Crystal Knodel (right) is an electrical engineer at the Wyss Institute who taught Hawolul about power circuits during the program.

April 29, 2013
The Wyss Institute was one of ten "site partners" for this year's Apprentice Learning program, which offers middle school students at the Boston-based Mission Hill School a taste of a "real" work experience so that they gain skills and insights that are critical for success in the workplace and in life.

"We are extremely proud of all the students, who showed dramatic growth throughout the term of their apprenticeships," said Program Director Helen Russell, who launched the program in July 2012.

Four 8th grade students were selected to participate in weekly three-hour classes held by Wyss Institute staff from January 31 to March 7. The Wyss experience followed six weeks of professional skills-building under the direction of Russell and her team. The students focused on different topics presented in an interactive format by the Wyss Institute – from the basics of biologically inspired engineering, to the principles of motion, DNA, and more.

It was an Institute "first," and according to the presentations by the students in a celebration in April, a resounding success as well. Each student wrote a letter that he or she read to a community audience including site partners, family, friends, and teachers.

Apprentice Learning
Left to right: Crystal Knodel (Wyss Staff Electrical Engineer), La'Renz (student apprentice), Cameron (student apprentice), Helen Russell (Program Director), Hawolul (student apprentice), Mikaila (student apprentice), Jermaine Reid (Wyss Events Manager)

"It was a wonderful experience for me. … I love that all of your projects at the Wyss are making our community better," said a student named Hawolul, who later showed off a science project inspired by one of her Wyss-based classes: a battery circuit to power a speaker.

Hawolul said she always thought she'd become a surgeon some day and while that may still be of interest, she's now aware of the spate of other kinds of job opportunities that exist in the science field. "I can see myself working at the Wyss," she said.

Another Wyss apprentice named Cameron said he's a fan of the Wyss model of risk-taking. "I like that," he said, "and learning about 3D printing was also cool."

Other students in the program worked as "apprentices" in local businesses and nonprofit organizations.

"I'm incredibly proud that we were able to participate in this visionary program," said Wyss Founding Director Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D. "and hope our Wyss apprentices keep up their great work because the world needs their creative and fresh minds to find solutions to all sorts of challenges."


The Wyss Institute has partnered with Apprentice Learning to introduce eighth-grade students from Boston’s Mission Hill School to the field of biologically inspired engineering. The broader goal of the program is to inspire middle school students from Boston’s urban public schools to engage directly with local community professionals who share their expertise, and help the students build skills that are critical to their future success. For example, the program builds practical intelligence, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

Go to the Apprentice Learning website...


We've won a Webby Award!

Wyss Institute is proud to announce our win in the 2012
Webby Awards in the Science category.