At our secondary school we established an open digital workshop in which the students can develop creative ideas to implement and present them in various projects. They use techniques such as 3D modeling and 3D printing, plotting and laser cutting, programming drones or robots and single-board computers as well as various forms of audiovisual media production and classic forms of DIY like soldering, sewing or knitting.
Since three years approaches of the outlined idea of implementing making activities in schools have been successively established. Immediately after acquiring the first 3D printer in 2016, a first group of students tested 3D modeling programs and printed their own products. Since then, every year an elective course takes places in our Makerspace. The interest was so immense that the one-hour elective lesson was extended to three hours and flexible additional weekdays are offered. Further equipment could be purchased to offer a broader range of maker-based activities, e.g. virtual reality glasses and a VR-ready computer.
Teachers who want to establish a maker space in schools need equipment which is easy to handle, has a long lifetime and forgives mistakes. The first difficulty we had was the selection of printers. We made very good experiences with Ultimaker 3D printers which could be even operated by younger students. In a next step we printed a lot to get know to the technology. Fortunately, Ultimaker 3D printers work with freeware like Ultimaker Cura as slicing software and we found with tinkerCAD (www.tinkercad.com) a powerful online tool to create own designs. This tool is also easy to use, even for younger students, and for free.
As we proceeded, we introduced our new equipment to our younger students in additional courses. After a short period of habituation this students are able to be 3D experts in class if teachers want to implement maker-based activities in their lessons. With increasing experience we could start to implement these activities more and more into school lessons. For example, we are able to print models for science lessons that are able to be manipulated by our students. Furthermore, we let our students do their own 3D models, e.g. within arts lessons. In one project advanced level students created designer hooks which are quite funny. But also lower grade students are able to create 3D models as we could see in geography lessons and our elective course.
To implement maker-based activities in lessons, you need furthermore pc rooms with class sets and a sufficient network. TinkerCAD works also on tablets, but handling 3D models without a mouse is quite challenging. To monitor and evaluate the students’ work, it is practicable to offer one account to the students which could be used by all of them at the same time. Note that the students have to rename their work and label them with their names. After a short introduction about the general functions in tinkerCAD, even younger students are able to create complex models within few units. To print them, you have to count in more time if you have only one or two 3D printers. This could be done by the 3D experts for example. Including students into important tasks has a huge potential to create an open and creative working attitude which gives the possibility to increase motivation and also grades. Working together trains equally students and teachers and leads to an enjoyable classroom or even school climate.
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The aim of DRONE@SCHOOL project is twofold, on the one side, for teachers in order to accumulate experience about teaching robotics at High School adopting innovative methodologies in education and training based on FabLab and maker-based activities; on the other side, to motivate those students at the risk of drop-out. This school project initiative has been created by researchers and teachers, expert in technologies and in education, and has been supported by Public and Private bodies: High Schools, the FABLAB of Fano, the sportive club Drone Racing Fano, a company in the sector of robotics named TTP Technology, the bank Intesa San Paolo of Urbania and the public-private company ASET of Fano.
Let’s go into a lesson of the course step by step, in order to better understand the vocational, educational and training approach used…
I Phase – the expert illustrates the project-work: How to build a canopy for our personal drone
In this first phase the teacher expert describes the main activities in which the student should be focused on to achieve the ultimate objective. In this specific course fragment, the teacher explains that he will use a 3D printer with PLA filament to create the specific canopy.
II Phase – Take the measures and sketch out a draft on the paper
This phase is important to give to the student the reference with another technique to sketch out a drawing, not digital but using traditional instruments. Learning from the old approach to cope with the drawing, it helps the student to better understand the limits of it against the advantages of the CAD tools.
III Phase – Learn how to do it with a CAD system
Once the principal measures have been identified on the paper sketch, then the student start with the use of a Computer Aid Design system to deal with the 3D representation of the drone canopy.
IV Phase – Learn how to transform digital atoms in physical ones
At this point the expert teaches to the students how to use a 3D printer and how to generate an stl file compatible with the most used 3D printer software.
V Phase – Test the materialised object
Once the object has been created the student should test it, e.g. mounting it on the drone, and eventually he/she should identify little improvements to apply at the previous drawing before printing it again.
Makerspaces are communities of practice constructed in a physical place set aside for a group of people to use it as a core part of their practice, a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech to no tech tools. These spaces are open to kids, adults, and entrepreneurs and have a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, soldering irons and even sewing machines.
Experts state that a maker class experience at school provides a wealth of opportunities for students, but how can you determine if a makerspace is needed at your school? How eventually can be integrated in your school?
Mentioned below are some tips which might help you.
Step number one: let’s determine if a makerspace is needed at your school
Here below some simple questions to answer, elaborated by the National Inventors Hall of Fame, the organisation leader in the promotion of creativity and the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in the field of education.
- Does failure slow or stop creativity in students?
- Could students expand their perspectives by learning about expression and unique learning styles?
- Can we improve real-world applications of classroom lessons to strengthen comprehension?
- How would more hands-on learning benefit curiosity and innovation?
- Can we increase exposure to the 21st century skills needed for success?
If you answered yes to all the questions, a makerspace can provide the opportunities you are looking for to enhance learning at your school.
Step number two: let’s figure out which strategy can be used to implement makerspace at your school
Two types of strategy are suggested.
- A makerspace can be integrated directly into a classroom setting or it can be established in a dedicated location. Regardless of where the space is located, the key is creating a space that provides opportunities for: collaboration, learning, sharing, testing, questioning, experimenting and innovating.
- If you don’t have funds for that, you can simply ask to a makerspace that is in near your area.
For insight on how a makerspace can be established at school, read the entire article “Does My School Need a Makerspace?” on Invent official website.
 National Inventorts Hall of Fame, Article: “Does My School Need a Makerspace?”, www.invent.org/blog/trends-stem/establish-makerspace-school
Furthermore Concordia University in Portland (Oregon) suggests 5 steps to cerate a maker space for your school:
Step 1 – Get Started: Study Up + Network
You can start reviewing a few reading materials as a point of reference and connecting to the myriad of like-minded educators across your country and beyond. There are a lot of passionate teachers that share online suggestions, resources and free lessons for maker based activities. sharing their ideas and advice. You can use social media as Telegram, facebook or Youtube, to find relevant supporting materials.
Step 2 – Getting Stuff for Your Makerspace: Bring the Outside World In
Start filling in a supply material list. In order to cover the expenses for supply materials you can ask companies, organisations and any other potential stakeholder (including parents) to provide it for free. Makerspaces can use almost everything from metal scraps to waste material. Ask your community for help through face to face meetings or posts on social media. Invite local professionals to help kids create their project (i.e. an electrician to build a light-up circuit, or bring in a construction expert to help design the perfect tiny house).
Step 3 – Find Space + Time: Turn Any Space into a Makerspace and Give Kids Time to Explore
Any space can be used for basic steam-based projects (i.e. libraries, school classrooms and cafes). You could adapt the activities to the available spaces and let the students explore it.
Step 4 – Make it Work: Start a Design Challenge Practice
To organise regular maker-based design challenges is a good practice to improve interest and involvement. They can be schoolwide, grade-wide, or classroom-based, and work well when both competitive or merely for learning. The goal is to get students engaged in design thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving. To keep the maker culture alive with regular participation, use the element of surprise by announcing “Drop Everything & Make” challenges or create a design challenge schedule for the year.
Step 5 – Make It Last: Get Creative with the Curriculum
Maker education should connect to classroom learning. Consider ways to incorporate maker projects into your everyday unit and lesson plans, as well as long-term projects. This makes the school subjects more relevant and connected to the real world. However, embedding maker culture into curriculum learning creates a long-term practice with measurable outcomes. To make it work, guide students toward identifying and understanding learning targets and then engage them in self-reflection and revision—just like real innovators.
The project approach has become, in recent years, one of the most creative and innovative ways to raise secondary education classes.
Following the pioneering studies of Kilpatrick or Dewey, several authors have shown didactic sequences through which to work in the classroom through projects. Project-based learning is based on approaches such as Kilpatrick’s “project method”, which argues that a project is articulated in a work plan conceived as a complex unit of personal experience, or the approach of Freinet, author who argues that the different teaching subjects should be integrated around a concrete motivating plan.
This methodology is also close, therefore, to the methods of “learning by doing”, to authors such as Dewey, or to Decroly’s “syncretism”, based on the global and undifferentiated apprehension of reality, not segmented into parts.
In our opinion, as shown in Terrádez (2016), a teaching by projects in Secondary and Bachelor education is based on the following pillars:
-It must aim to finally make something new, related to the reality of the student. The final project should not only be related to the acquisition of academic or school content, but must be related to learning skills that exceed the academic field, and must also be aimed at creating a new product (a book, an audio or video recording, a short film, etc.).
-It must be divided into “micro-projects”. In order for a project such as the one we present to be able to be developed in its entirety, it is necessary to dedicate a minimum of class sessions to the implementation by the students, which may be detrimental to the motivation necessary for the work to be develop successfully. Therefore, we consider that the division of a project into “micro-projects”, all with their own objectives and methodologies, serves so that the student does not lose at any time the motivation for the final product.
-You must balance the work of the four basic skills. One of the most interesting aspects of project development lies in the ease with which the work of the four basic skills can be integrated. Students, throughout the project sessions, will necessarily have to write and read texts, each with different functionalities, to talk and expose in class their work, and to listen to both auditions related to the project, such as the his peers’ own productions. The challenge on the part of teachers lies in designing activities so that the work of these four skills never falls into improvisation.
-It must be interdisciplinary. Another highlight of a project approach is that we can easily achieve the interrelationship (often suggested and rarely implemented) of different subjects. A language and literature project can insert content related to history, philosophy, natural sciences, etc.
There is no doubt that maker activities are an ideal example for project-based learning.We will take as an example one of the activities proposed in our project “Make in Class”, and collected in the Project Competence Map.
Specifically, we will use the activity “Manufacturing a car model”, proposed by Malta, in which students must create an automobile model from the production of a technical drawing of mechanical components using CAD software, with the intention that, once the parts of the car have been assembled, the car can be linked and addressed with the student’s mobile.
This activity, like most maker activities:
-The ultimate goal is to build something new, motivating and related to the student’s reality. Without a doubt, designing a remote control car is something tangible and motivating for the student.
-It is divided into “microprojects”: 1. Configuration of the main communication tools. 2. Use cad software packages in preparation for manufacturing. 3. Calculate sizes of the item to be manufactured. 4. Production and design. 5. Build the electronic circuit.
-Students apply both the four basic skills and key competencies or “soft skills”. In fact, in the project students should look for information on how to build a car, and finally think about promoting their project.
-It has a clearly interdisciplinary character, as it relates to subjects as different as English, technology, computer science, mathematics, physics. Virtually all subjects in the curriculum are somehow linked to the project.
In short, we have shown how maker activities are a privileged example of the project-based learning methodology, a method that seeks students to learn in an active and motivating way, and which should ultimately help prevent early school drop-out.
Dewey, J. (1971), “L’école et les méthodes actives”, Revue des Sciences de l’Education (Pour l’ére nouvelle), no 2, pp. 49-57.
Freinet, C. (1976), Los planes de trabajo. Barcelona. Laia. B.
Novak, J. Y Gowin, D. (2002), Aprendiendo a aprender, Martínez Roca.
Pozuelos, F. J. (2004), “Las carpetas de trabajo: una herramienta para compartir la evaluación en el aula”, Cooperación Educativa Kikirikí, 71/72, pp. 37-45.
Terrádez, M. (2016): “Lo que La Celestina enseñaría a Meetic”, Textos.
Zayas, F. (2006), “Hacia una gramática pedagógica”, en Camps, A. y Zayas, F. (coords.), Secuencias didácticas para aprender gramática. Barcelona: Graó, pp. 17-30.