Catylator is a 21st century technology arts education workshop. It is a safe learning place where technology and art comes together, where we spark positive reactions and provide a space for learning, discovery and growth. The Catylator name is an amalgamation that brings together Catalyst and Incubator
Why does Catylator do what it does?
I believe people should be actively engaged in shaping their future by understanding and harnessing 21st century technology. I also believe all people are inherently creative beings, our creativity is how we express our ideas to the outside world. Our culture, our jobs and our society are changing at a faster pace than ever due to forces such as artificial intelligence, digital fabrication, the internet of things, robotics and the worlds of virtual and augmented reality. For example, the iPhone is only 10 years old, yet how many of us can imagine conducting our lines without a smartphone as a constant companion? It is due to these forces that the World Economic Forum issued a report in 2016 projecting the top three skills needed by employees in our future workforce are complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity. Yet many people do not feel self-confident with these skills, and it is often challenging for underserved populations to gain access to the learning resources they need so they can prepare to participate in the jobs of the future. I am teaching people to gain confidence with their creativity, and to develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills while engaging with, and demystifying, 21st century technology.
How is Catylator solving the problem of creativity in our world?
I believe people can learn about 21st century technology, and I believe people can gain confidence, develop and practice their creative skills. In addition, I believe it is critical that people actively understand and engage in the technology world that is happening around them or else their chances of participating in the future job market will be diminished. This is not good for the individual, nor for society and the economy of our nation. To make a difference in these areas Catylator is growing as Silver Spring’s premier technology arts education workshop where we teach classes, workshops and camps, and facilitate access to 21st century technology, such as 3D printing, laser cutting and coding. At the core of what we do, we facilitate helping you and your family express yourselves as creative beings through forming new ideas, making your ideas become tangible reality and helping you follow through on ideas you are passionate about. Along the way you can learn how and gain confidence with the process of solving complex problems, and the experience how the act of making things with your hands develops and enhances your critical thinking skills.
Catylator is not a non-profit, we are a for-profit social enterprise and believe that business can be a force for good. In developing Catylator we are working to develop a model where a mix of user paid programs, funded social mission programs and pro-bono support for the local community can all combine into a sustainable asset for Silver Spring.
How does Catylator benefit the local community?
I believe in the concept that a business can be a force for good, that for-profit businesses can have a social mission and that non-profits are not always the answer to providing needed services. As such, I have been developing Catylator as a way of contributing to our local community. For example, we will offer our classroom and workshop spaces to non-profits and social groups for free or reduced rates. In Silver Spring, we have a strong Timebank organization where members exchange help for each other, and the Timebank holds its monthly new member orientations in our workshop classrooms. I also volunteer time and resources to help local schools develop and build their digital fabrication resources, and will provide demonstrations, talks and activities for school STEM nights.
What concrete impact is Catylator having?
Parents of pre-teens and teens who come to participate in our workshops say that what we do fundamentally changes the way their kids think about their creativity and their design and engineering capabilities. Every workshop we get to experience seeing faces light up as teens and adults take their ideas and bring them to reality. Earlier this year I had a particularly magic moment where I had been teaching a group of 6th, 7th and 8th grade girls to code and control microcontrollers, and when it was time for the workshop to end they were yelling “Wait, don’t stop! We want to keep coding.”
We make an impact with teachers too, and put a lot of thought into our awesome professional development workshops where we teach teachers how to be creative and make things with their hands. The consistent feedback we get from those workshops is that it was the best professional development experience they had ever had, normally they can’t wait to leave a PD workshop, but at Catylator teachers invariably want to stay and keep going.
Finally, the hands-on workshop environment is a place where we see students whose learning style is not a good fit for traditional schooling come alive by being able to express themselves creatively and feel rewarded with a deep sense of accomplishment when their projects come to life.
What is the next phase for Catylator?
Catylator has been in operation since the summer of 2015, and I am seeking to scale and grow the business so we can make a wider impact. To do this I need to be able to find partners and collaborators who share the vision and have energy to put into broadening our outreach. If this sounds interesting to you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
About Steve Morris, Founder
I am a mechanical engineer, certified project manager and business developer with over 25 years professional experience, including 15 years creative engineering design experience at the leading edge of international yacht racing and ten years of successful strategy, program and financial management experience with the U.S. Navy.
I founded Catylator in Silver Spring, MD, because I believe in the transformative power of making things with your hands, and the deep sense of agency that can be gained through creating things for yourself. Plus I love designing, coding, engineering and hacking our world, and I am motivated to share that love and sense of wonder through teaching.