City Councilor Nadeem Mazen strives to bring more awesome
Photos courtesy danger!awesome
Even in Cambridge, home of MIT and innumerable adventurous start-ups, the politicians aren’t generally known for their forward-thinking. Depending on who you ask, that deficit in relevant experience has held government back as its private sector neighbors speed ahead.
Nadeem Mazen, a local tech entrepreneur and one of four new members of the Cambridge City Council, is poised to fix this glitch in the municipal matrix. To that goal, he’s brought forth a vision for creatives and hackers alike that includes further introducing 3-D printers to consumers and expanding public school programs like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Through those and other measures, Mazen says this is the right time to boost makers of culture in Cambridge. For starters, he tapped someone to help review the city resources already available, such as after school programs and arts grants.
“You should expect your city councilor to limit their term because that will bring in new types of leadership,” Mazen says, explaining why new blood is important. “If we’re leaving more often, we’re going to see new types of people come in. That’s going to be artists, that’s going to be engineers, that’s going to be more minority groups that aren’t represented.”
An activist who was an integral member of the media team at Occupy Boston in 2011, Mazen has already taken to advocating for bridges between the area’s vast resources and those who need them most. He’s currently pairing up with the Possible Project–an entrepreneur program for Cambridge high school students–and planning for an arts space within a building in Kendall that belongs to the city. It won’t be an easy battle, as private companies are rumored to also be eying the property.
Furthering his community focus, Mazen is planning the expansion of his company, danger!awesome, which he founded with fellow MIT grad Ali Mohammad three years ago. The pair was gifted a laser cutter from the indie pop band OK Go for their quirky animation work on the viral video for the song “Last Leaf,” and have since paid the favor forward. Located in a Central Square storefront, danger!awesome offers outlets for anyone who has enough compulsion to create anything, from detailed and engraved phone cases to something simpler like laser-cut stationery. Over the past three years, they’ve taught in excess of 2,000 kids and adults to design, customize, and invent on their 3-D printer and multiple laser-cutters.
“When you get your claws on tools like this,” says Mazen, “when you’re lucky enough, as we were, you’ve got to bring it to the public.”
While Councilor Mazen seeks resources for Cambridge residents, his private side is searching for solutions the new fashion way–on Kickstarter. In order to grow danger!awesome to include a classroom for art and engineering classes, they’ve set out to raise at least $35,000 by February 15 (as of this writing, they’re incredibly close). If their target is met, the expansion will provide a new after-school program geared to inspire under-served students. Once that infrastructure is in place, Mazen hopes to help bridge the proverbial learning gap with a mix of fun and education for area teens.
“We’re just starting to get to the point where we’re seeing that our tiny, tiny existence is beginning to inform projects all over the world,” says Mazen of his increasingly hack-happy crew in an increasingly hack-happy city. “Why would you not expand that? The more you expand that, the more it comes back to the community.”