Preparing for Maker Faire

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photo credit: Jarelly Martin

As I walk into Ed Crandall’s classroom on a Tuesday afternoon, it’s hard to find a clear focal point, a single place to direct my attention. Students are stationed around tables throughout the room, most in small groups, working to build physical objects of their own design.

Ed is the instructor for the ‘making’ course, an elective available to high school students at Lighthouse. Observing his class for the first time, I am not sure what to expect. Shortly after I enter the room, Ed gives me a quick rundown of his students’ projects, ushering me to each group’s work area as he talks. One group is working on a mind-controlled robot, another is creating a cardboard prototype of a miniature city, and yet another is building a prototype of a tricycle out of PVC pipe. All groups are working on a project that they hope to exhibit at this year’s Bay Area Maker Faire, to be held in San Mateo on May 17 & 18. After chatting for a few minutes with Steve, a retired computer programmer and classroom volunteer, I begin making my way around the room to talk with each group individually.

I ask a few groups about how they came up with the idea for their project. One student, part of a team of two working on a foam model of an aircraft, tells me that he likes airplanes and wanted to make something that would fly. Another student, who had just finished 3D-printing propeller guards for a  quadcopter, tells me that he wanted to make something remote-controlled. One student making a prototype of an LED-embellished scarf with a partner chose her project because she liked to wear scarves.

3D-printing propeller guards

3D-printing propeller guards

That one class could accommodate such a wide variety of student interests was impressive to say the least. The ‘making’ elective seems to provide students with a personalized learning experience that goes beyond instruction at an individualized pace. Students are given the opportunity to develop skills in areas of interest to them, through projects of their own choosing, and as an observer, I saw many students who seemed engaged in the process of bringing their ideas to life. One student working on the mind-controlled robot project is building on her prior programming experience, while another who learned to knit a scarf from her project partner is developing a new skill. While both students are learning skills in different subject areas, both are engaged in experiences that hold educational value for them.

And while students in the ‘making’ elective hope to get a chance to exhibit their work at Maker Faire in May, they are already using the internet to share projects ideas. Using a tumblr account set up for the class, students have begun to post personal bios, photos, and project descriptions.  The tumblr gives students a space to document their work while also providing an opportunity to practice communicating their ideas to a wider audience. Learn more about what these students are working on at the ‘making’ elective blog.

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