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Social educators helping dropouts with maker based activities

In this blog we have talked about maker culture, about activities and maker projects, about the suitability of installing a maker space in an educational space, and also about how technology motivates young people.

Now, with this article we want to delve a little deeper into how educators with maker skills can help to give support to young people with educational difficulties.

As the introduction of the European Commission report “Youth work and non-formal learning in Europe’s education landscape” said in 2015:

The blurring of borders between formal, non-formal and informal will require new teaching skills and constant evolution of the profiles of youth workers or school teachers. A holistic approach to education, individualised methods, professional coaching and experience-based learning would also prompt individuals to take a step back from routine and promote change”.

And, more and more, informal learning will be a way of learning increasingly considered by employers and will be a motivating source of Learning.

While instruments of assessment and recognition of informal learning are being designed, it is time to explore ways to complement this informal learning with the educational system. And this role is developed in a very professional way by social educators.

Social educators know quite well what motivate young people. Besides, different sociological studies indicate that adolescents feel motivated when they are able to:

  • discover their talents through practice,
  • learn new things that have practical application in their personal or work environment,
  • solve real life problems,
  • use new technologies beyond the mobile phone,
  • build things for themselves,
  • feel that their initiatives and creativity are valued,
  • collaborate in the care of the planet,
  • help to others.

These motivating aspects can be achieved developing projects, (Why not?) in a “maker space” where young people can produce things.

We talked with Ana Moreno, a social educator and director of SED VIES, Social & Educational Piarist Association, in Valencia.This spanish association works with children, adolescents and families of vulnerable groups. They offer support to these students, with additional learning difficulties, when school hours are over.

SED VIES, stakeholder of Make In Class Project, is going to launch a project to set up a maker space to develop maker activities complementing the educational programs that will be scheduled after school.

Ana Moreno explains that working in a maker space will awaken the motivation of teenagers getting an informal learning: knowledge, skills and soft skills, without being in a traditional educational environment.

How to plan maker activities to motivate these young people from vulnerable groups?

She tells us their idea:  integrating the “manufacture” of objects or services into young people entrepreneurial projects to serve the community. The aim is being useful in their closest environment, improving their self-esteem and helping to achieve their social integration.

SED VIES bets on learning-service to the community, a methodological proposal that implies the realization of a solidarity action where the students are the protagonists, destined to attend real needs of a community and planned in an integrated way with the curricular contents of learning.

It is not only make nice and funny things, but useful and motivating things.

With this methodology we want to increase the interest in learning from young people, designing maker activities associated with projects that end by manufacturing something useful for young people, for people around them, for people in their community” – Ana Moreno explains.

We are convinced that this will be the starting point to achieve their social and labor insertion.


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Maker-based activities at Gymnasium Neubiberg

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 ( 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 PhaseTake 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 PhaseLearn 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 PhaseLearn 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 PhaseTest 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.



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The first Make In Class Multiplier Event in Italy

On Wednesday, 3 July 2019 the first Make In Class Multiplier Event has been held in Fano (Italy). The Multiplier event has been included as a dedicated session of the Fablab Micro Festival organised by the Municipality of Fano at Rocca Malatestiana. A lot of positive feedback have been collected by the Italian partners (Co.Meta, Municipality of Fano, Polo 3 Fano) on the project and the Outputs presented. More than 50 secondary school teachers and students attended the event and have been involved in hands on session on the Intellectual Outputs and practical maker-based activities. The Event started with the welcome of the new Assessor of the Municipality of Fano for Youth Policies. She stressed the importance of European collaborations for the development of the territory and the making as an emerging methodology for the future of our students. The “Fablab della Rocca Malatestiana” has been presented as a point of reference for Make In Class project at national level, describing the activities, tools and events planned. An overall overview of make in Class projects has been presented highlighting the project idea, main partner, target groups and Results. A special focus was on the first two Intellectual Outputs produced: IO1 Competence Map and IO2 Make In Class OER with an hands on session. The multiplier event has also involved teachers and students in practical workshops related to 3D printing and drone assembling. Below you can find and download the materials dinstributed and used for the event:
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Does my school need a Makerspace?

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.

  1. Does failure slow or stop creativity in students?
  2. Could students expand their perspectives by learning about expression and unique learning styles?
  3. Can we improve real-world applications of classroom lessons to strengthen comprehension?
  4. How would more hands-on learning benefit curiosity and innovation?
  5. 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[1].

Step number two: let’s figure out which strategy can be used to implement makerspace at your school

Two types of strategy are suggested.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

[1] National Inventorts Hall of Fame, Article: “Does My School Need a Makerspace?”,

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.