When Operation Breakthrough’s new Ignition Lab opens in the fall, the former muffler shop on Troost Avenue is expected to offer hands-on, practical training to young people who have aged out of the early education center’s MakerCity program.
Media members were offered a first look at plans for the space — powered by Chiefs Super Bowl-winning tight end Travis Kelce and his Eighty-Seven & Running foundation — Thursday afternoon ahead of a private groundbreaking ceremony with JE Dunn slated for Monday at 3030 Troost Ave.
“The vision is to give them a safe haven where they can continue to find role models, discover interests and develop skills once they age out of OB’s after-school program,” Kelce said. “Together with OB’s staff and supporters, we’ll create a co-working space where teens will have the support, resources and opportunity to explore careers in STEM, launch their own entrepreneurial ventures and gain real-world experience.”
The Ignition Lab is the natural next step for students, ages 14-18, who have already acquired basic skills in coding, circuitry, culinary arts, construction and design, digital media, robotics, visual art and other trades, said Mary Esselman, CEO of Operation Breakthrough.
Expected to open at the beginning of the new school year, area high school students will use the space during the day to enhance their classroom curriculum while Operation Breakthrough students — ages six weeks to 14 — are at school.
“We are excited to close the opportunity gap in STEM,” Esselman said. “Helping our children explore a variety of different fields including computer science, automotive and engineering, manufacturing, electronics and multimedia will not only help them figure out what they are passionate about but create opportunities to build a strong portfolio of client work, certifications and capstone projects.”
Click here to read Startland News’ previous reporting about the Ignition Lab space — which sits immediately north of the nonprofit’s existing MakerCity expansion building.
More than 700 urban Kansas City children come to Operation Breakthrough each weekday for nutritious food, lively learning, health and dental care, therapy and TLC, while their parents work or attend school, according to the nonprofit.
Click here to learn more about Operation Breakthrough.
When Kelce signed a four-year, $57 million contract extension with the Kansas City Chiefs in August 2020, his first purchase was the muffler shop building that is currently being transformed into the Ignition Lab.
“In signing on for six more years with the Chiefs, I’m recommitting myself to the work I have left to do off the field as well,” Kelce said. “Kids I danced and ate pizza with at OB a few years ago are now teenagers navigating a world that doesn’t always have their back.”
The current Operation Breakthrough MakerSpace and MakerCity STEM spaces promote hands-on collaborative learning in the arts, electrical, robotics, construction, culinary arts, multimedia, automotive and engineering, maker and green tech for children ages 5 to 14.
By the time students enter high school, most have self-identified as not interested in STEM subjects, according to Operation Breakthrough.
Rather than allow STEM interest to lapse, students at the Ignition Lab can enter into the experiences at a beginner level and work through experiences that build proficiency. When they are ready, experiences are available for mastery development, including when appropriate industry recognized certifications, the nonprofit said.
Founded by Travis Kelce in 2015, Eighty-Seven & Running helps underserved youth strive to become productive citizens by mentoring and motivating them to explore and develop their abilities while learning critical life skills.