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Instead of sitting around and playing video games, what if your teen learned how to build and create the video game?  

That’s just one of the many visions David Corr, owner of Arts and Craftsman Workshop, has for teenagers in the Topeka area who attend the Teen STEAM program. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, and in our world today, it’s more important than ever that the youth in our country are exposed to these disciplines. 

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Corr, the son of a robotics engineer, developed a love for hands-on experiments at a young age and wanted to provide a program in Topeka for students to have the same opportunities.  That’s why he partnered with the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library through a Teen Science Cafe Network to start Teen STEAM cafes in 2017. 

Anyone between the ages of 14-18 can show up to Arts and Craftsman Workshop at 308 SW Van Buren St. on the second Wednesday of each month between 4:30-5:30 p.m. to participate in the “cafe” known as Teen STEAM Live. It’s a safe place for kids to go have fun while they explore and experiment. Oh, and it’s completely FREE! 

When the cafes first started in 2017, Corr came up with a variety of science projects for the kids that revolved around different scientific principles. “One time we deconstructed a projector to show how it works. We did a lesson on modular synthesizers for them to play with (because many were interested in music), and a crowd favorite is when we made ten second ice cream.”  

In April of 2019, regular teenage attendees of the monthly cafe became part of the leadership team. They now meet on the fourth Wednesday of every month and are responsible for deciding on the future topic for the cafe meetings and finding guest speakers to come in and present to the group in a TED Talk-esque fashion. This aspect of the program has Corr even more excited. “Not only is Teen STEAM a perfect way to give back to the community by facilitating the love and inquisitiveness for sciences, but this program is growing leaders. If we grow the teen leaders, that alone is building a stronger community.” 

Corr and the leadership team have several other ideas planned for the near future including sending a weather balloon into space with a GoPro camera and entering teen robotic competitions, which could go as far as the national level. Of course, the end goal is to continue fueling a passion for creating and giving back to Topeka. 

“The main thing I want these kids to realize,” Corr said, “is that you don’t have to move to a big city to accomplish great things. You can do it right here in Topeka. Figure out how to create things on your own and make people come to you.”