Elon Musk, the billionaire Tesla founder, invests in cars, rockets and tunnels and hopes to colonise Mars, but he has one venture that he has kept secret at his SpaceX campus.
He has founded a school called Ad Astra, at his offices in Hawthorne, California, dedicated
to child geniuses.
Unlike other schools in the United States, its loose curriculum focuses on projects that most fascinate the entrepreneur, from artificial intelligence and machine ethics to robotics and coding.
Musk founded the experimental school three years ago to "exceed traditional school metrics on all relevant subject matter through unique project-based learning experiences", according to a regulatory filing document discovered by the tech website Ars Technica.
Ad Astra has been kept secret as a mostly private venture. It educates children aged from 7 to 14 and started with a class of eight, including Musk's children. It has grown to around 40 students made up of gifted applicants and the children of SpaceX employees.
According to the filing, the school is funded entirely by Musk. The document reveals that the school emphasises "ability over age" for group projects, with study of science, maths, engineering and ethics.
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It adds the school will develop "remarkable people imbued with a strong sense of justice".
It can cater for up to 50 students.
There is little else to even prove that the school exists. A website for Ad Astra has just a home page and one link, for children's parents.
In a rare interview last year, Joshua Dahn, the head teacher, revealed a few insights — the school day is from 8.30am to 3.30pm, with "no down time", and classes focus on projects rather than disciplines.
Students learn to code in multiple software languages. No spoken languages are taught, as Musk believes computers will soon help humans instantly communicate in any language. Sport is not on the timetable.
"We take the most precocious kid we can find who can keep up with kids who are a bit older," said Dahn, who described one problem-solving exercise, called "The Lake", which involves students discussing a town with a factory that is polluting the local water and killing wildlife.
The factory employs everyone in town, and voters keep in power the politicians who favour the factory. Students are asked: Who is most to blame for the pollution — the voters, the politicians or the factory owners? Children are not give grades but critical and honest feedback.
- Telegraph Group Ltd