Monday, July 25, 2011

Making and STEM

The act of making things--whether its gluing toothpicks into simple or complex structures, or welding scrap metal to make art--is a natural vehicle for exploring concepts and applications of science, technology, engineering, and math. In addition to taking into account the aesthetics of design, makers are in essence performing constant experiments: what do I think will happen if this is attached to that? What can I do to make that happen? Making equals exploration, which leads to innovation.

Making encourages creativity--an important ingredient in answering scientific questions. But many scientists and non-scientists alike may not consider themselves to be "creative" as the word is typically applied to the arts. Fortunately, there is a movement to make "making" accessible and show how creativity can be found in unexpected places.

The Maker Faire, a.k.a. the world's "largest DIY Festival," hosts showcases of innovation across the country. This year, the World Maker Faire will be held on September 17th and 18th in New York City in partnership with the New York Hall of Science. Smaller faires inspired by the larger event frequently take place in smaller communities, highlighting regional activities. 

Individual institutions can support the science of making. At the Exploratorium, daily activities at The Tinkering Studio support exploration of many kinds of materials and science concepts. Check out their blog for highlights of recent activities. And in case you're starting to feel inspired, the Institute for the Future (IFTF) has a blog up post about integrating the Maker community with K-12 education (specifically in-school, but the idea of linking making to the out-of-school time education field is worth considering as well). 

Making represents great opportunities for doing science, engineering, technology, and math outside of typical school hours. Have you seen making in action?

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