First space, then auto—now Elon Musk quietly tinkers with education

By Mark Harris for arstechnica.com

In a corner of SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, a small, secretive group called Ad Astra is hard at work. These are not the company’s usual rocket scientists. At the direction of Elon Musk, they are tackling ambitious projects involving flamethrowers, robots, nuclear politics, and defeating evil AIs.

Those at Ad Astra still find time for a quick game of dodgeball at lunch, however, because the average age within this group is just 10 years old.

Ad Astra encompasses students, not employees. For the past four years, this experimental non-profit school has been quietly educating Musk’s sons, the children of select SpaceX employees, and a few high-achievers from nearby Los Angeles. It started back in 2014, when Musk pulled his five young sons out of one of Los Angeles’ most prestigious private schools for gifted children. Hiring one of his sons’ teachers, the CEO founded Ad Astra to “exceed traditional school metrics on all relevant subject matter through unique project-based learning experiences,” according to a previously unreported document filed with the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

“I just didn’t see that the regular schools were doing the things that I thought should be done,” he told a Chinese TV station in 2015. “So I thought, well let’s see what we can do. Maybe creating a school will be better.”

In an atmosphere closer to a venture capital incubator than a traditional school, today’s Ad Astra students undertake challenging technical projects, trade using their own currency, and can opt out of subjects they don’t enjoy. Children from 7 to 14 years old work together in teams, with few formal assessments and no grades handed out.

Read more here.

Learning to read is fun with Reading Kingdom.  Sign up today for a free 30 day trial.