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June 28, 2024

Alumni Profile: Kate Reed

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NuVu Alumni: Kate Reed

Kate Reed was the first graduate of NuVu Innovation School in 2016, and has since gone on to receive two undergraduate degrees—one in Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Brown University and the other in Industrial Design & Computational Technology at The Rhode Island School of Design. NuVu recently caught up with this Boston-based designer whose work has been featured at the White House, New York Fashion Week, Museum of Design Atlanta, the Hackaday Superconference, MIT Museum and more, to hear how NuVu helped shape the designer she has become today.

Do you remember what brought you to NuVu in the first place?

I was looking to make my education meaningful. I was frustrated in school because no one ever told us why we were learning the things we were learning. I wanted a hands-on approach to education that was specific to me and had a purpose.

NuVu was everything I had ever dreamed of. I remember going to visit the school and seeing kids my age making, designing and cutting out incredible airplanes using machines I had never seen before. There was a giant human-size flight simulator that the students had built there the week before. After we left NuVu I remember my parents asking me if I would like to go there, and I remember looking at them confused — not understanding how NuVu was even remotely comparable to the high school experience I had before. Obviously the answer was yes. So I began attending NuVu that winter.

Why/how was NuVu a good fit for you at the time?

NuVu was a very different place when I was a student there over 10 years ago—it was like the Wild West. When I first started, there were around 20 students, and I was often the only girl in the room. Everyone was learning at that time. NuVu was figuring out what it meant to be a school, the coaches were learning how to talk to teenagers, and I was learning how to create impact in the world. Being at NuVu during those early days was so fulfilling because we were all learning together. The expectations of us were incredibly high because no one knew where the limit was, and we pushed that limit every studio. If something wasn't working, we would change it because there were no rules; the only rule was to keep iterating and keep producing.

The critiques were ruthless; this was not the type of place where every drawing ended up on the fridge. There were times where after I had been working on a prototype for days, it was thrown in the trash by coaches because it was “nothing special.” This was exhausting, but these critiques indeed taught me that nothing is precious. They taught me that we are never done, and there is always room for improvements. Because the creative process is never finished. The longer I stayed at NuVu, the more I realized that I didn’t need a critique to know how to improve something. I was able to prototype quicker, develop complexity in my projects, and leapfrog my iterations.

Real-world applications and impact were always at the center of NuVu. We never had to ask why we were doing something because it was obvious—we wanted to make the world a better place. I remember during my first Genius Camp, I learned to code by writing an Arduino program that would count cards for us, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever.

How did NuVu help prepare you for your dual degrees at both Brown and RISD?

NuVu gave me a work ethic like no other. I came out of NuVu a fully present and fierce individual, who was willing to fight for what I needed. NuVu taught me to never be afraid of giant problems, but instead gave me the tools to be able to break down these problems into smaller problems and to start to address them one at a time.

Can you explain a little about what you’re doing now? I see that you’re an Artist in Residence at BOSlab - can you break that down for us - what are you doing there? Also, tell us about your work at Arch Mission Foundation?

Today, my work centers around bridging humans, computers, and the natural world through interfaces. I believe that equipping nature with computers is the key to ecological equality. Technology should mirror life and life should mirror technology. My mediums are fluid as I build machines, modify biology, augment the body, and grow technology. My work balances between digital evolution and physical evolution and I aim to preserve the relevance of the natural world as our society increasingly gravitates towards digital landscapes.

This started with the development of Biomimetic Wearable Computers, which merge the body and technology through the imitation of nature. This evolved through the Beyond Biomimicry collection, which was a collection of wearable devices that were all grown through digital simulation, this allowed nature to act as the designer herself, in hopes of ecological equality. As my curiosity about growing nature with technology increased, my work transitioned from digital simulation to experimentation with synthetic biology. I focused on directed evolution, gene regulation, and genetic modification to create systems and products that heal our environment. While working in both the biology lab and the computation lab, I noticed that my interfaces to both fields were through glass. Fascinated by this parallel, I delved into the world of scientific glass, learning flameworking (which is my current and latest obsession).

What was your biggest takeaway from your NuVu education as it applies to life AFTER NuVu?

Coming out of NuVu, I was a confident, fully realized adult, ready to take on any challenge. NuVu taught me to look at problems from multiple perspectives and to embrace creativity and innovation.

Learn more about Kate and her work on social @orangebark and at www.katereed.org

Interested in how your student could thrive in their education like Kate? Learn how at https://www.nuvuschool.org/admission

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