Robotics: The 4th. "R"?

Science and math educators have been actively attempting to stimulate student interest in their academic areas. One way of accomplishing this aim is by offering engineering and robotics courses in schools. A recent article in Fast Company has provided insight into the motivation for learning that some students display when they’re allowed to trade the classroom for a “makerspace.”

 

One entrepreneur, Dale Dougherty, is the founding editor of Make magazine. In 2011 he delivered a TED speech (TED.com), in which he contends that all people are “makers.” He believes that allowing students to experiment and learn from their mistakes is a critical part of creativity and the “maker” process.  He created the world’s largest DIY festival—Maker Faire. He sponsors “Maker Fairs” in various locations at which inventors can share their products and ideas.  

 

He recently received a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA- the US government agencyresponsible for the developing new technologies for the military) to develop “makerspaces” in at least 1000 schools.  Students will have access to state-of-the-art equipment such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and power tools. These spaces will provide students the opportunity to learn engineering and design techniques and practice problem solving skills. According to the Fast Company article, “The ultimate goal is to instill in students a DIY (do your own) ethos that helps stimulate a passion for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines. Increasingly, STEM talents are considered crucial to a country’s economic success.”

 

Encouraging students to think—isn’t that the ultimate goal of education? What hidden talents do teens possess? Let’s let them explore and discover!

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