UPPER WEST SIDE — A new kids workshop equipped with 3-D printers, virtual reality goggles, laser cutters, and animation- and music-editing software is opening in the neighborhood next year in the hopes of attracting talented children between 6 and 16.
On a typical weekday afternoon, roughly 30 kids flock to the Brooklyn flagship, where they either attend daily 3 p.m. or 5 p.m. workshops, work on an ongoing project or start up a new endeavor. They're guided by about a half-dozen Pixel Academy staffers.
The young "makers" drop in after school and learn how to design and create their own video games, animate a film, produce and edit music and sound effects, or use the 3-D printer, among others.
Parents pay a $25 monthly membership fee and then $35 each time their child attends an after school session. About 100 kids have taken classes at the Brooklyn location since it opened, the academy said.
The young members are "getting a leg up on the technologies that in 10 to 20 years will be everywhere," DePice said.
Technical prowess aside, Pixel Academy also strives to promote socializing for kids whose interests, like coding and video games, tend to be more solitary pursuits.
The academy organizes kids into teams, seating a child at a table with other children who are working on similar projects, DePice explained.
"If my project is to make a 3-D video game about a zombie apocalypse, I’m going to go sit at a table and sit with people working on video games or something where coding is involved," he said. "We'll trouble-shoot the same obstacles."
Since kids are grouped by project type and not by age, they end up making friends across grades. As a result, many behave more socially than their parents would have expected, DePice noted.
"We can make any type of kid comfortable," he added
Opening the new Pixel Academy location requires a substantial investment in technology — with one 3-D printer costing about $2,000 alone — so the company turned to fundraising site Kickstarter to help.
The academy is asking for $40,000 by Oct. 29, and so far has 44 backers who have contributed a total of $4,781 as of Monday afternoon. If it doesn't reach $40,000 by the deadline, the academy will forfeit the money it initially raised, according to Kickstarter rules.
Without the $40,000, Pixel Academy will still open the new Manhattan space in January, but the acquisition of technology may proceed more slowly, possibly reducing the days the academy is open at first, DePice said.
After planning a second location, the company decided on the Upper West Side because it received the most requests for a new location from parents there, he said.
The new workshop will sit in the basement of a residential building, and with all the technology and creative work happening, it's "going to have the vibe of a cool spot," DePice added.