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New Britain Students Learn, Earn, While Creating Innovative Products for CPEP

Fourteen New Britain students, from middle school through college, are using creativity, innovation and complex engineering skills this summer to create building kits for the state’s CPEP, or Catalysts Powering Educational Performance, program. The students are working for a three-year-old company called CPEP Ventures. CPEP Ventures, based at Louis P. Slade Middle School in New Britain, creates thousands of kits each summer for the approximately 1,000 students across the state involved in CPEP.

CPEP, a pre-engineering education program fostering math, science, engineering and technology, allows middle school students to use these skills to build objects such as an air powered boat, mousetrap race car and a gravity-powered magnetic levitation vehicle, through a kit. The students test out the effectiveness of their creations, and are given scores.

The kits are created by the CPEP Ventures team at Slade, all of whom have gone through the CPEP program themselves. They often use everyday household items, recycled and repurposed materials to create the kits. They also have the use of a high-tech 3D printer, which allows students to create and design an object on the computer before the printer creates the actual product.

Before the creation of CPEP Ventures by its CEO, Bruce Dixon, teachers created the kits for the CPEP program for many years.

“Teachers are very busy,” Dixon said. “It was an inefficient process, and we knew it wasn’t a long-term solution.”

Dixon wanted to create an opportunity for talented students to use creativity and innovation in a way they could not do in a regular class at school.

“I believe there are students in districts like New Britain and other cities who can be the next (Facebook founder and internet entrepreneur) Mark Zuckerberg,” Dixon said. “The desire and the potential are there.”

Dixon said CPEP Ventures provides students with real world experiences, and allows teachers to get involved in cutting-edge technology.

CPEP Ventures students, led by Slade Middle School teacher Jeff Bechard, work part-time and are paid for their efforts. Last summer, Dixon said they created about 2,500 kits for CPEP participants statewide. CPEP offers after-school, summer and Saturday programs in school districts from Bloomfield to Stamford.

For more information on CPEP Ventures, contact Bruce Dixon at 860-655-8884.