Flagship Armath lab in California seeks to raise a new generation of Armenian engineers

Students at Armath Engineering Labaratories in Glendale, California (Photo Credit: Armath)

By Martin Makaryan

The first Armath lab came to California just a few months ago, opening its doors to youth who want to pursue a comprehensive engineering education outside the classroom. Since then, the flagship lab located in a modern, well-equipped facility in Glendale has generated significant interest and success within the Southern California Armenian community – the largest one outside of Armenia.

Armath Engineering Laboratories, which started in Armenia 10 years ago, provides interactive after-school classes and activities to children and teens aged between 10 and 18 years. The program starts with basic programming and helps students explore different areas, from robotics to production. There are no pre-requirements or skills needed to enroll, and one of the guiding philosophies of the project is to uncover the potential of every student through individualized coaching.

“Armath is about creating a pan-Armenian STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Math] community and educating the next generation of Armenian engineers,” says Araksiya Nadjarian, who heads the STEM Academy of the Armenian Engineers & Scientists of America (AESA). AESA is a non-partisan, philanthropic organization that has sponsored and supported the establishment of the first Armath lab in California.

Since its creation in Armenia a decade ago, Armath has grown into an expansive operation with labs in all the regions of Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and other countries, including France, Kuwait, Bangladesh, and India. In Armenia, Armath has more labs in the provinces, especially in rural communities, than in Yerevan, providing the more vulnerable students with access to an after-school program focused on teaching engineering and technical skills, as well as cultivating discipline and teamwork.

“The idea for this project arose from a critical shortage of tech workers in Armenia,” Karapet Manukyan, the Lead Instructor at Armath Glendale, told CivilNet. Armenia’s tech industry dates back to the Soviet times as the country, called “the Silicon Valley of the Union,” was an important technological hub for the industrial production in the entire Union. While in the immediate aftermath of the country’s independence, Armenian tech industry experienced a sharp decline, it has been one of the fastest growing sectors in recent years.

Armath graduates, who number in the several thousands, have gone on to work in top positions in companies such as Picsart, Cisco, and others. The project’s uniqueness and attractiveness is the opportunity for youth to foster their creativity by actively designing, building, and improving their own creations, and then using their skills to achieve their educational and career objectives. But Armath’s goal is not simply the educational, personal, and professional development of the students alone.

“The goal is to have a synergy in a generation of Armenian engineers connected to their Armenian roots and heritage, to the homeland, and having access to a large network of Armenian peers and a sense of community,” Manukyan affirmed.

Engineering is an especially important field to develop in Armenia, given the advances in modern technology and the ever-increasing need for innovation to meet the security and economic needs of a country with limited natural resources.

Beyond its mission to advance an important field, Armath’s story is about the potential for a real and meaningful collaboration between the Diaspora and Armenia. Armath shows that a new strategic relationship can develop based not only on what the diaspora communities have to offer to the homeland, but also the other way around.

In the short amount of time that Armath’s flagship lab has been open in Glendale, California, the lab has already enrolled dozens of students and is planning its first ever summer cap from July 17-21. The camp will combine almost three months’ worth of curriculum into one week. Registration is currently open on AESA’s official website.

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