The next innovation to come out of Kendall Square with the backing of Biogen Idec Inc. may not spring from a seasoned group of pharmaceutical researchers but rather from a bunch of high school students.
The Possible Project, an afterschool entrepreneurship program founded by Third Rock Ventures partner Mark Levin and his wife, Becky, has secured a $500,000 grant from the Biogen Idec Foundation to fund operations at a facility opening in the fall.
The so-called makerspace will house high-tech equipment, such as 3-D printers and a laser cutter, that Cambridge public school students can use to advance their own business endeavors or simply to learn more skills.
A separate $330,000 capital campaign is underway to pay for renovations at the project’s building, 107 Portland St., which was previously used by the Cambridge Housing Authority to store equipment.
The authority will lease the building to the Possible Project at a discounted rate. The construction of a mezzanine level will bring the total workspace to 1,800 square feet.
Biogen’s grant, to be paid over five years, will cover about 75 percent of operating costs during that time.
“It really allows us to not worry about operations for the next five years,” said Becky Levin, the program’s executive director. “It’s huge.”
The 4-year-old Possible Project, which serves about 150 high school students, will also continue to offer programs at its current home in Central Square. There, the 12-person staff teaches business skills to Cambridge teens who qualify for free or reduced-cost school lunches, struggle academically, or are learning English as a second language.
The curriculum is a blend of classroom instruction and hands-on experience.
Students work at the program’s two businesses, We Sell Possible, an e-commerce company that sells donated and consigned products on eBay and Amazon, and Cambridge Made Possible, which sells student-made items, including greeting cards and smartphone cases.
Some students launch businesses of their own. On Thursday night, for instance, eight teens will make business pitches to the Levins and Biogen Idec’s chief executive, George Scangos, with a chance to win as much as $300.
A satellite location will help accommodate the program’s growth — a 50-student increase is expected next year — and provide free access to the same kinds of gadgets students from more affluent backgrounds are using just down the street at the NuVu Studio, a private school where a two-week summer session costs $1,675.
“We feel a responsibility to do all we can to ensure the next generation are curious about the world around them and contribute to society in creative ways,” Scangos said. “By giving all students — regardless of their background — opportunities and support to reach their full potential, we might empower them to pursue careers in art or science.”
Source: “Possible Project gets $500,000 grant from Biogen Idec”, https://goo.gl/lUPTFi, The Boston Globe, 29 May 2014.