Avenues Mastery Year

Inventing the Future

The Avenues Mastery Year is an intensive, year-long gap year program offered by Avenues: The World School in collaboration with The Long Now Foundation. Designed to accelerate the development of future inventors and entrepreneurs, the program culminates in an original invention, a pitch deck plus business plan, and a patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Participants select either a Making and Design or a Future Sustainability track, immersing themselves in the history and future of innovation studies while simultaneously gaining essential implementation skills in invention and entrepreneurship. The select group of admitted participants will form an accomplished community that is ready to accelerate into the future.

We are now accepting applications for our inaugural class in the fall of 2020 for participants aged 17 and above.

  • Semester program options available upon request.

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    Avenues: The World School was founded in 2010 with a vision to create a network of connected campuses throughout the world. This vision is now a reality with premier campuses in New York, São Paulo, Shenzhen, Online, and Silicon Valley planned to open in 2021. A recognized leader in educational innovation, Avenues graduates have been admitted to more than 200 of the finest colleges and universities in the world.


    This is a program like no other. Developed for those who have a passion for invention and want to put their ideas into action, our curriculum puts innovation at the heart of a participant’s educational experience. Over the course of the year, participants will:

    • Analyze, reverse engineer, and re-invent a series of world-changing technologies from anywhere there is an internet connection.
    • Develop sophisticated perspectives on technology’s past, present, and future by discussing essential texts of science fiction and innovation studies.
    • Produce an original invention, business plan, and pitch deck, while working in teams supported by patent attorneys, investors, and experienced entrepreneurs.

    World-Changing Inventions

    A Hands-On Journey

    From the telegraph to the smartphone or from the hydroponic garden to the photovoltaic cell, participants re-invent, backward design, and hack the technologies at the foundation of the modern world. The result is a deep understanding of first-principles that prepares participants to develop their own original inventions.

    a student concentrates as she works on her project

    Interdisciplinary Seminars

    Innovation Studies and Science Fiction

    Participants come together online from around the world to discuss, debate, and analyze the surprising histories and futures of fundamental innovations. Centered around a curated collection of essential texts, participants develop original insights into the complex questions at the intersection of humanity and technology.

    viewing an ebook on a tablet

    Adaptive Challenge

    Calibrated for the Individual

    While the Avenues Mastery Year is meant to be a challenge, the invention projects are modified to stretch participants at the appropriate level. Beginning participants may receive additional support while advanced participants are able to focus on optimizing the efficiency, functionality, or cost of the invention.

    working with a circuit board

    Schedule for Growth

    Support + Independence

    The Avenues Mastery Year schedule allows participants to balance independent work and community connection. Monday through Thursday synchronous classes occur for 2 hours, leaving the remaining time for independent project work. Fridays are dedicated to participants’ patent projects and faculty office hours. This flexibility fosters accountability and sustained mentoring relationships.

    a student marks her calendar

    Accelerator for Innovation

    Skills and Experience for What’s Next

    Invention and entrepreneurship are often two sides of the same coin. Participants use their invention to develop a business plan and pitch deck with personal coaching from our seasoned entrepreneurs and business executives. Prepared with new skills and the ability to execute, participants are set up to take ambitious next steps towards creating the future.

    Learning on the Path

    Conversations with Master Makers and Doers

    Each month we invite exceptional founders, futurists, inventors, and leaders to discuss their current projects, advice, and answers to participant questions. These conversations include special guests from The Long Now Foundation board, Google, NASA, Blue Origin, and IBM.

    participating in an online master class


    Each unit of study matches an invention with the discussion and analysis of texts meant to deepen understanding and spark the imagination. One of the texts is foundational, exploring scientific first principles and telling the surprising and often overlooked stories of how new inventions come into the world. The complementary text focuses on the future, exploring the complex questions that arise in imagining possible scenarios and trajectories. Each unit is a cohesive learning experience that synthesizes the hard skills, conceptual understandings, and historical insights that are combined in the act of invention. Applicants select a concentration in either Making and Design or Future Sustainability.

    Making and Design Track

    Unit Invention Projects Innovation and Imagination Foundations and First Principles
    1 Telegraph Mother Earth Mother Board by N. Stephenson Reluctant Genius: Alexander Graham Bell and the Passion for Invention by C. Gray
    2 Radio Amplifier Contact by C. Sagan Empire of the Air by T. Lewis
    3 Team-based Patent Projects invention development The Idea Factory by J. Gertner
    4 Digital Abacus A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines by J. Levin The Information by J. Gleick
    5 PONG Ender’s Game by O. S. Card Game Over by D. Sheff
    6 Original Invention Prototype Where Good Ideas Come From by S. Johnson Invention by Design by H. Petroski
    7 Digital Camera Obscura The Circle by D. Eggers Out of Focus: The Story of How Kodak Lost its Direction by J. Larish
    8 Personalized Smartphone The Hardware Hacker by A. Huang The One Device by B. Merchant
    9 Patent Application participants write their patent applications The Innovator’s Dilemma by C. Christensen

    Future Sustainability Track

    Unit Invention Projects Innovation and Imagination Foundations and First Principles
    1 Hydroponic Garden Omnivore’s Dilemma by M. Pollan The Wizard and the Prophet by C. Mann
    2 Wind Generator Ishmael by D. Quinn Energy: A Human History by R. Rhodes
    3 Team-based Patent Projects invention development Whole Earth Discipline by S. Brand
    4 Low-Cost DNA Extractor Oryx and Crake by M. Atwood The Double Helix by J. Watson
    5 Climate Change Model New York 2140 by K.S. Robinson An Inconvenient Truth by A. Gore
    6 Original Invention Prototype Where Good Ideas Come From by S. Johnson Invention by Design by H. Petroski
    7 Bioplastic Fashionopolis by D. Thomas The Story of Stuff by A. Leonard
    8 Photovoltaic Cell Solar by I. McEwan Collapse by J. Diamond
    9 Patent Application participants write their patent applications The Innovator’s Dilemma by C. Christensen


    Austin Volz

    Austin Volz

    Austin joined Avenues in 2014 as a founding member of the China Education Team in Beijing, China. In 2016 he relocated to the U.S. and joined the Avenues Research and Development team, currently serving as the Director of Program Design. In the years before joining Avenues, Austin taught, ran experiential education programs, and conducted research in Greece, Germany, and China. He is the lead author of The Elements of Education for Teachers, a comprehensive summary of key learning science research. A recipient of both a Fulbright scholarship and a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, Austin holds a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s College and a master’s from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

    Brendan Cavalier

    Brendan Cavalier

    Brendan brings over 15 years of engineering, teaching, and making experience to the Avenues Mastery Year. Before joining Avenues, Brendan held a variety of roles leading design and making learning experiences both through teacher coaching and through classroom instruction. During his 7 years as an Engineering instructor at High Tech High Media Arts in San Diego, he taught upper level engineering and physics classes and was responsible for setting up one of the school’s largest engineering and making facilities. Before his career in education, Brendan spent 6 years as an Electrical Engineer for General Atomics, working on a variety of military and high energy physics projects.

    Emily Hollenbeck, Ph.D.

    Dr. Emily Hollenbeck

    Emily is a tropical biologist who has been living, studying and conducting research in the cloud forest of Monteverde, Costa Rica since 2011. Her research focuses on using elevation changes to demonstrate the high threat that climate change poses for cloud forest canopy species. An avid reader as well as scientist, Emily is passionate about preparing more students to take a meaningful, active role in building a more sustainable future. She holds a doctorate from Brown University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.