Felip Fenollosa “We offer educational opportunities for everyone”.

Felip Fenollosa, Director of Research and Development at CIM-UPC, takes stock of the four years of Magnet alliance with the Escola Montessori (Rubí). What has it meant for the CIM-UPC to be a Magnet partner? What has Magnet brought to the technology center? What values has it brought to the Escola Montessori as a partner? These are some of the questions Fenollosa answers.

In the 2017-18 academic year, the Escola Montessori began an alliance with CIM-UPC that has allowed it to develop an innovation project based on technology, educational robotics and the promotion of STEAM vocations (which encompasses science, mathematics, technology, engineering and art).

What has it meant for the CIM-UPC to be a Magnet partner?

For CIM-UPC to be a Magnet partner with the Escola Montessori de Rubí has meant to continue a path that we started years ago, which is to advance the social impact of technology. At the CIM-UPC we are a technology center experienced in advanced manufacturing and words like technology center and manufacturing sound like industry, industrial park, engineers or operators closed in a manufacturing plant like the one we are located … words that may seem far from citizenship and, therefore, far from children’s education, but it turns out that with all the digital revolution that has occurred, and that we all live in first person through cell phones and computers, this has also entered the industry. This revolution has allowed a number of very interesting tools that can help learning, such as 3D printing or laser cutting, to be easily accessible in order to disseminate the technology. Our partnership relationship with the Montessori school has encouraged us to use these technologies through pedagogical challenges aimed at primary school children and this has been a turning point for SUMMIT-UPC, one before and one after.

What do you think you have contributed as a partner in the Escola Montessori?

Continuing with this idea of pedagogical effort, we at CIM-UPC have to be experts in many technologies, but it turns out that for our day-to-day work it is more important to know how to transmit them. That is, what is expected of us, as professionals, is to be exhibitors, evangelists of how there is a new digital industry and how we have to promote it. For us, meeting with the most basic interlocutor you can have, such as the students of an elementary school, has required us to be very transparent, to get to the point. This has given us the value of going to what is substantial, of knowing what we want to explain and how we want to spread the importance of a technological process.

What has the Magnet program brought to you as an institution?

For us, being magnet partners has meant having a number of people at CIM-UPC with certain skills to take a piece of equipment and be able to explain it, to be able to do pedagogy, to be able to do a practice that you would never have imagined, because you will not go to an industry to do a 3D printing or assembly exercise that you would do in an elementary school. So, this input means that we are now better than we were before in terms of doing our technology dissemination function. So, what might initially be adding some workload to our day-to-day work ends up improving our day-to-day work.

Do you talk about the will to disseminate. How have you managed to adapt your knowledge and translate it so that it can be understood by primary school students?

At CIM-UPC we start from an advantage that is the age of our team, which is relatively young. It has been easy and we have felt very comfortable participating in days like the TV3 Marathon with the faculty of the Montessori school in Rubí. In addition, it should be noted that in order to reach the children we have the entire teaching staff who are the first recipients of our knowledge and to whom we have been able to contribute ideas. Their mission is training, and we also provide training in master’s and postgraduate courses for adults, and we have had to change our profile. From a technical engineering adult to a profile coming from teaching careers. In fact, we had the most productive sessions with the teaching staff and then there was the “prize” which was a visit of students at our headquarters, to be with them participating in activities to benefit the TV3 Marathon and see how they sell the products they had drawn and scanned with 3D printers. A little cascade training, we explain it to the faculty and the faculty to the students. Here we must highlight the key figure of Frank Sabaté, the magnet trainer who has been the hinge between the CIM-UPC and the Montessori school.

What values have you shared with Escola Montessori?

An essential value is the will to offer educational opportunities to everyone, the possibility of access to training. One of the things we promote from SUMMIT-UPC is to be able to innovate through new technologies, improving professional profiles and accessing the knowledge we have. For example, there are hospitals that are working with 3D printing, printing parts that reproduce the geometry of the body. And, therefore, we tell the children from time zero, you go to school every day, but there is a reason and we show them why: to make your professional and personal life a useful activity that serves society. We transmit this value more with our attitude than by not explaining a specific technology, which can be a neutral thing. But, explaining a technology and showing the purpose it will have for a specific hospital or to help overcome a disability, all this is what we have tried to do and it has been the shared value, the purpose. The pandemic has shown the need to introduce the technological binomial in the educational formula, and for the CIM-UPC technology is a tool to improve society rather than a purpose.

The Escola Montessori has worked a lot on the gender perspective of STEAM, for example by naming the classrooms of the school after women scientists. How have you accompanied them on this path from the CIM-UPC?

From the CIM-UPC we believe that technology is not a gender issue, in fact in the engineering technical office we will find more girls than boys. This is important to transmit in schools and educational centers where mathematics and science profiles have been associated to a certain gender. And from the CIM we transmit the idea that any gender can be linked to the scientific field. We believe that anyone can apply technology for certain needs.

For all this, from the CIM-UPC we have facilitated training in the Montessori school with women engineers and not intentionally, because as I said, women occupy a relevant role, but in doing so we know that it ends up having an impact on the students, who often do not have too many female references in these areas.

A while ago you were explaining the activities around the Marathon as an important moment of this partnership with Escola Montessori. Could you share with us some key moments of this relationship?

Yes, there have been many important and relevant moments. For example, I remember some open doors in which the will of the school was to say: we are a school in Rubí with a powerful, transforming and quality educational project and we are working to reverse the school segregation that we suffer in first person and we want to show that this is a school where any child, regardless of his or her origin, can be educated with quality. This discourse, which may seem very obvious, historically was not taken for granted and the school has acted because now it is so. In fact, profiles of families came to the open doors who did not usually come and those who did had some preconceived ideas of the center, thinking that they would not do what they do. And that day, when families saw 3D printing workshops, model workshops, robotics workshops, etc., they were surprised that a school with so much diversity could do all that. And of course, this is only possible with an involved faculty and management team that has worked hard to make this part of the Magnet program work. Here we have all made an effort, and the part of the faculty has worked very well, tense with us and asking us to make a school with a transformative and advanced educational project.

The shared value of access to opportunities is shared with the Montessori School, not that we are fans of meritocracy, but we do think that there should be educational opportunities for everyone.

What advice would you give to the partners and magnet centers that have joined during the 2021-22 academic year?

One of the pieces of advice I would give to partner institutions is that they should not see Magnet as an additional burden to their day-to-day work. That is, I would not advise them to appoint two people in charge of the project and shield the rest. Magnet has to be a project open to anyone in the organization. Magnet does not have to fall on the quality or institutional relations person, for me one of the keys to success is that it has involved from the general management to interns who are being trained with us and who next year will be in the industry. By doing so, you will do well as a partner and at the same time you will make the lessons learned from participating in the program permeable to the entire institution. Magnet has been a way to get out of our comfort zone. In fact, everyone at CIM-UPC who has collaborated in the magnet alliance with the Montessori school has been grateful to have participated.

In the educational centers I would tell them to be patient with the strange people (smiles) they meet at the partner institution and not to be ashamed to ask them to explain what they do two or three times in a language that “mortals” can understand, since we partners are immersed in our cosmos and the educational centers have to know how to force us to make this translation.

Finally, I would like to thank the institutions that promote the program for having acted as catalysts. Here, for example, we have 3D printers in which there is a photopolymer resin that solidifies thanks to light, but in the middle of the resin there are the photocatalysts, without which solidification could not occur. The institutions that are part of Magnet are the photocatalysts that “make things happen”, since the potential is there, the resin and the light, but agents are needed to catalyze them. In this line, I would like to explicitly thank Frank Sabaté, magnet advisor of the Montessori school, thanks to whom we understood what was expected of us.


SOURCE: “We offer educational opportunities for everyone” Current, Magnet.