With maker faires springing up across the country, electronics teacher David Peins suggests more engineers get involved in mentoring young DIY enthusiasts.
The maker movement is one of the greatest movements of all time and has the potential to fundamentally change life on planet earth. It has even caught the attention of the Whitehouse.
Maker Spaces are springing up in many places and kids are being given the opportunity to present what they have made at Maker Faires. Unlike many movements before it, the Maker movement is diverse and encompasses a wide variety of skills, technologies and incarnations. The movement is accepting of different approaches to creating solutions to problems and encourages creating things with a wide variety of materials, techniques and technologies. I remember seeing the Arduino LilyPad for the first time and thinking, ‘Now that’s different...’ In case you have not heard of this, it is an embedded controller designed to be sewn into clothing or gear to control LED displays but certainly many other functions come to mind. That was the first time I had hear the term 'Arduino' but I am hoping some of my readers can bring me up to speed on the genesis of Arduino and the Lilypad. I like the addition of a sewing machine to one maker center, which illustrates the diversity of methods used.
Embracing STEAM, (Science Technology Engineering ART and Mathematics) education and seeing the creative side of 'Making' is what makes the movement appealing for me. I have blogged about this in the past but I believe that the common factor between engineering and art is that both are creative endeavors. New York's MOMA museum is one of the most confusing places for me so I admit that I do not understand much of what is considered ‘Art.’ It is the creative process that is the art. I have always tried to accept my student’s ideas during my 30 years of teaching, even if I could not see the end result as having success. One memorable example was a robot with oval wheels that one of my students created. He is now an engineer. Whether or not that design could ever have been successfully implemented under different circumstances or if that experience had anything to do with that student's decision to pursue engineering I may never be know but he was clearly being creative and he stuck to his design decision.
The Maker movement has great potential for success but, like all great movements, people are the greatest asset and the most difficult to recruit and retain. Funding for start-ups is available through local, state and federal government grants and collaborations like the Maker Education Initiative. There are also private grants available through Make and others. My observations so far show that a 'Maker Centers seems to have 3-D printers, laser cutters and of course, Arduino controllers and soldering stations to make kits. What I believe should happen is that centers should be built around the skills and interests of the people who are going to run the center and the participants.
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