Pilot program: Idea Farm first life sciences club at Westfield High School


By Anna Skinner

Westfield High School librarian Joel Bruns’ new “Idea Farm” has two faces.

The first is to serve as a foundational life sciences club for students interested in woodworking, technology and electronics and textiles.

The second goal is to be the pilot program for a possible business incubator to come to Westfield with Birch Dalton at the forefront. Dalton, City Councilor Jim Ake, Derek Daly and other city leaders donated a check for $5,000 to Bruns to kick off the Idea Farm.

The room for Idea Farm is in the Westfield High School library, a separate room with three different workbenches – one for woodworking, one for electronic components and one for textiles. Bruns is planning on bringing in a loom to assist with sewing and fabric projects. He has already acquired a 3-D printer, as well as woodworking tools.

“We launched this as a pilot program,” Bruns said. “We talked about having some collaborative efforts between students and local business guys in a couple of different ways, maybe having them come in to tweak projects.”

Bruns also hopes to mold Idea Farm into a project similar to the television show “Shark Tank,” where students can present their projects to businesses and get a feel for entrepreneurship and how to create a business plan.

“It’s been floating around in the back of my head for a long time,” Bruns said. “I would have been a better student if I had something like this available, and I really like building things, and I would have learned a lot by doing this.”

Currently, Bruns has approximately 10 students working together in the different aspects of the project. Briana Kennedy, a WHS senior, is one of the students involved in the textiles portion.

“I think Bruns is the only person who can pull it off, and I hope more people join so we can make it bigger,” Kennedy said. “Westfield is one of a kind. Bruns is one of a kind, so I think this idea is one of a kind. I love that this idea is one of the first in the area, and we hope it expands.”

The students involved are working together to try and incorporate all portions of the Idea Farm into one project. Meanwhile, Kennedy is working on her own project with textiles.

“I want to see if I can make an article of clothing that (other members) can watercolor on,” Kennedy said. “You can wash it off and do a different design, so I’m trying to figure that out material wise.”

Although Idea Farm is up and running, Bruns and his students are still looking for different materials that can aid in their creations.

Any businesses with spare woodworking tools or textile materials they are willing to donate, email Bruns at [email protected].

About Idea Farm

What: Pilot program for an incubator business in Westfield
When: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday after school, Wednesday nights
Where: WHS Library
Students involved: 10
Different stations: Woodworking, textiles, technology
Amount donated: $5,000
Searching for: A loom, PVC pipe, plasma cutters, woodworking tools, etc.