August 5, 2020

The ‘maker’ revolution comes to education | Economy

Learn by building, in informal, social and collaborative spaces, where traditional roles of teachers and students blur and where creativity, knowledge sharing and personal motivation prevail to create and invent hand in hand with new technologies: it is culture maker, heiress of the movement Do It Yourself (“Do it yourself”) and garage culture in the United States and linked to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines. Since its arrival in the educational environment, it is associated with practical learning based on projects and the development of soft skills such as curiosity, critical thinking, reflection and teamwork.

Whether science, mechanics, robotics or programming, programs maker have in common the creation of products in an artisanal and community way through technology. An environment where the emphasis is placed more on the process than on the accumulation of content; in collaboration rather than in competition; in the socialization of knowledge over its institutionalization. Of its increasing prominence is, for example, witness SIMO Education fair, which since 2017 has dedicated its space Maker Everything to change an unquestionable reality: the number of students enrolled in Spain in this type of studies, which has been decreasing over the last years. And when market demand cannot be met, you have to look for that talent outside.

“It is a fundamental tool, because it creates a very enriching learning ecosystem. Everyone is participating in the creative process, and you also share what you do with other cities or schools … It is an equal system of lifelong learning, ”explains Lola González, director of SIMO Education, who above all wants to highlight its democratizing character of learning: all are potential creators, and it is only necessary that they be given the opportunity to put their idea into practice, to share it in a collaborative space and to be able to inspire everyone else: “It has a lot to do with the so-called “slow education”, in which artisanal work, reflection, touching and doing in spaces of solidarity and collectivity prevail … And fortunately, it is learning not only in schools, but also in so far more institutionalized spaces, such as libraries and museums, ”he adds.

‘Top Makers’

The university environment is increasingly receiving cases of culture maker, like the laboratory Fablab from the Nebrija University Polytechnic School, accredited by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for educate, innovate and invent through technology and digital manufacturing. Or about thirty students who, from the Carlos III University of Madrid, make up STAR (Student Team for Aerospace and Rocketry): From degrees such as Aerospace Engineering, Industrial Mechanics, Telecommunications or Electronics and Energy, they have promoted the design, development and manufacture of reusable rockets since 2018-19, with the aim of promoting space and aeronautical sciences. Its next objective, for early summer, is to address the Spanish altitude university record, currently owned by the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (1,930 meters), and raise it to 4,000.

STAR is an initiative made by and for students, where teamwork and knowledge sharing between the different departments is essential. As it is a rocket entirely designed by a team of students, constant dedication is essential: “We are looking for people with a certain set of values: self-reliance, commitment to the team and a certain motivation to do your part and help your classmates … On a technical level, you are going to work on something for which the career does not prepare you, ”says Mario Hernández, the 3rd Aerospace Engineering student who runs STAR.

This coordinated effort also translates into innovation: “Thanks to Triditive [una empresa asturiana], we will be the first in Spain to manufacture the engine nozzle with a 3D printer, and we have also developed the entire rocket avionics system ”, reveals Carlos Aguilar, a 2nd Energy Engineering student who is dedicated to design and manufacture of a solid fuel, within the Propulsion department. “The vast majority of the fuselage is made of carbon fiber, and an antenna made of graphene sheets embedded inside the carbon fiber layers is being developed. This will help, during launch, the rocket can transmit the data to the command center. ”

Nothing is left to chance in the departments of Avionics, Fuselage, Propulsion, Integration and Logistics, Simulation, Software and Public Relations of STAR: it is not enough that the pieces are good separately, “since you also have to work to optimize the whole” , Hernandez wields. The choice of materials for the fuselage, for example, is extremely important, “because any rotation made by the rocket can cause it to break.” And the same can be said about propulsion: “The rockets operate in extreme conditions. Apart from the theoretical analysis, there are areas that require experimental treatment, such as fuel. There is no way to predict the properties of combustion without experimenting with it. ” In the long term, the goal is to provide students with a microgravity testing platform, so they can study ideas related to the aerospace industry that they might not otherwise experience.

Accessible technology

The germ of the culture maker, however, it is planted at a much lower level of the educational ladder, where technology also makes it possible for these new ideas to be realized more quickly. But this it has to be cheap, accessible (like Arduino, for example) and open, to avoid being restricted to a more elitist space. “It is not about programming large robots, but that the student, with their hands, create their own robot or scientific project with everyday material at their disposal,” argues Ainhoa ​​Marcos, head of Public Education at Microsoft in Spain. “For example, we can build a telegraph with a plastic cup, a clothespin, a magnet, a copper wire …”

That the revolution maker It is not a private preserve of the privileged schools with more means are numerous public centers test throughout Spain. In the CEIP San Sebastián de Archidona (Málaga), they have been introducing 3D printing, robotics and programming projects for students since the third year of primary school, which in these six years has served them to build vertical gardens, trail equipment, interactive panels , serum housings for hospitalized children or materials for blind or disabled people. The Faculty Center of Lanzarote has more than 50 training itineraries for teachers on robotics, digital design, audiovisual production, 3D printing or plotter of vinyl, and also teaches workshops for students in schools, where technologies related to the design of apps for Android, video game development with Scratch, virtual reality creation, robot and drone control, etc.

For its part, the IES Cardenal Cisneros, of Madrid, is a center of technological innovation with at least one project for each level of ESO and Baccalaureate, a space maker “Directly linked to service to others. The works are vertebrates around the axis of community service and managed by teachers who have been developing them for years, ”says Alberto González, professor at the center and coordinator of a didactic project for video game gaming. open to anyone who wants to use it. “I have been developing a video game based on performance and key competencies for four years. It is set in the year 2342, when the human being has already liquidated nature. Students simulate an exit to the field and learn everything they can to avoid the disastrous future; they make the contributions, the questions that the game launches and enrich it with ideas, scenarios to visit and experiences to live within the game ”.

Neither age nor gender

But from what age can one become maker? As soon as you want. There are proposals designed for ages as early as three years, such as those suggested by Microsoft with Lego or Minecraft, which help learning block programming; while Hacking STEM they have been designed to be implemented from the second and third cycle of Primary and Secondary (especially in the ESO): for example, building a telegraph or a seismograph can be done from the third of Primary to the fourth of the ESO, but others, such as brain impact meter or the robotic hand, are recommended for Secondary: “However, the projects are very flexible and can be adapted, depending on the teacher in each case and the level of competence in the field of programming of each center or group of students,” he says Frames.

In Zaragoza, the Inventors Academy of Edelvives and Innovart offers future engineers, architects or scientists a space maker with a scientific, mechanical and electronic laboratory, in addition to a programming classroom, from the age of three (the Baby Inventors) to the age of 18. “We sow them the need to know how the world around us works and we teach them to use new technologies to solve problems (…). Although our approach is multidisciplinary, it is a reality that each of our students has different abilities, ”explains Jorge Mata, one of its founders. “For this reason, it is necessary to encourage teamwork, helping each other to overcome the challenges with greater success.” At the same time, bMaker proposes challenges adapted to each level so that students find their own solution.

Among the challenges that remain for the future, the need to bridge the gender gap in STEM disciplines, traditionally dominated by men. The movement maker should favor their entry “because if at school, since childhood, they are participating with their classmates in these spaces, they will see in a much more natural way to be able to access careers of this type (…). They can help a lot to the empowerment and visibility of women in this area, ”says González. For his part, Mario Hernández, of the STAR team, claims a greater involvement of universities: “Spanish universities do not support students in projects like ours in the way that American women do, where in each university there is at least one rocket team. I think they are losing a lot, because this is named after the university outside. ”

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