At the White House Maker Faire last June, more than 150 universities committed to expanding opportunities for Making on their campuses and in their communities. The Maker Faire was one of several OSTP initiatives this year aimed at highlighting the importance of the Maker Movement in creating opportunities for hands-on STEM learning, facilitating entrepreneurship, and expanding advanced manufacturing in the United States. At that event, the President issued a call to action to enable the next generation of innovators to be not just the consumers of things, but the makers of things.
Today, OSTP Director John Holdren visited Spelman College’s innovation lab and Makerspace. Spelman is one example of the many colleges that are creating opportunities for Making in response to the President’s call. Spelman’s innovation lab is home to the Spelbots, an all-female robotics team that has competed in international robotics competitions and is currently building an autonomous Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) system.
As part of the visit to Spelman, Director Holdren discussed how a subset of higher education institutions have come together to form the Make Schools Alliance. This new initiative will provide students with spaces, projects and mentors to engage in hands-on Making activities and boost their interest and persistence in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The Alliance will capture best practices and support research that examines the impact of Making on learning, student retention, and degree completion in STEM fields. It will also serve as a network, dynamic platform, and one-stop online resource for information on higher education institutions regarding initiatives, programs and collaboration that foster Making. Currently, information on nearly 50 colleges and universities can be found on the Alliance’s online platform.
The Make Schools Alliance builds on a growing momentum in the higher education community to support Making. Earlier this month, members of the Alliance met with Federal agencies, including USAID, CNCS, SBA, NSF and USDA, in Washington, DC to explore potential avenues for broadening accessibility and participation in Making in communities across the country.
K-12 superintendents, teachers, and organizations across the U.S. have joined the higher education community in creating ways for students to design, tinker, invent, and Make in the classroom and after school. One example is the Roanoke County Public School District in Virginia, which has created Makerspaces for its special education students to solve problems by designing and creating their own solutions. A number of programs being offered by Makerspaces, museums, and educational organizations focus on providing professional development for teachers around integrating Making into curriculum and the use of tools and technologies such as programmable microcontrollers, 3D modeling and 3D printing.
Building an educational pipeline that will enable students to make throughout K-12 and continue to develop and pursue their interests in STEM, arts, and design in college will be critical to supporting the America’s next generation of problem solvers and innovators. If your educational institution is doing something to engage students in Making, we want to hear about it! Send an email to email@example.com.
Stephanie Santoso is the OSTP Senior Advisor for Making.