Over the last few years, I've watched from afar as Pittsburgh's Remake Learning initiative has blossomed into a resource-rich network. Its 533-member organizations are striving to inspire and equip the next generation of innovators, problem-solvers and critical thinkers through hands-on, relevant learning.
The makerspace isn't just a fixed space where kids come and go to complete busywork. It's an extension of a well established approach to educating students that has applications and deep implications across disciplines.
Schools without a makerspace or without plans to implement a makerspace are now in the minority.
While more than half of school libraries in the United States and Canada (55 percent) offer maker programs to students, STEM isn't necessarily the biggest focus. The most common offering for almost four in five respondents to a recent survey (79 percent) was arts and crafts.
A Title I STEAM-focused school connects students to new ideas with tech tools that help construct their problem-solving skills all in one place.
Pop-up makerspaces have allowed project-based learning to grow and blossom. Using higher-order thinking skills, students are given the opportunity to problem-solve, ask questions, think, create, innovate, fix and revise. A new set of learning theories have popped up as well. Innovation and design theory have become a way of learning, with entrepreneurship at the helm.
"Ultimaker Core Lessons: STEAM Set" includes projects for creating "coin traps," pill boxes, penny whistles, flashlights, accessories for a potato head, sphericons, components for doing block printing and tessellation boxes.
The program is available as a self-paced online course or as a blended course. The online option allows teachers to complete the course via MakerBot University at their own pace and to complete an assessment at the end to earn a certificate. It is designed to take approximately five to 10 hours to complete and costs $99.
Students in Vermont recently took part in 3D Vermont, a competition that asks students to use 3D printers and other technology to bring their state's history to life.
In addition to improvements in cost, the device reportedly allows for larger-scale printing and greater precision than many commercially available bioprinters. The team released its research under a Creative Commons license to encourage others to build their own as well.
zSpace and Autodesk have teamed up to let students explore 3D objects in an immersive VR environment.
Pennsylvania's Montour Elementary School stands out even among schools that have embraced STEAM education, the maker movement, hands-on learning and augmented and virtual reality. So when the K–4 school opened the world's first "Brick Makerspace" — a Lego-powered STEAM lab developed and implemented in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University, Lego Education, parents, students and a local Barnes and Noble — it wasn't just a one-off affair; rather, it was yet another advance in the school's efforts to integrate principles of STEAM education throughout the curriculum.