New paths to innovation and learning through DIY technologies
During Week of Making, renewed focus on the people who explore the frontiers of design thinking and STEM learning
Today, the nation of makers proves it has no borders, as do-it-yourself engineers, inventors and tinkerers of all ages and backgrounds converge at the National Maker Faire.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) directly supports many of the exhibitors--known as "makers"--participating in the faire, with even more exhibitors using NSF-funded tools and technologies, such as 3-D printing and computer-aided design.
The faire is a kickoff event for the National Week of Making June 12-18, which celebrates the growing wave of innovators enabled by access to new resources and knowledge, known as the maker movement.
"NSF invests in the heart of the maker movement: the innately curious, creative and self-motivated people who engage in STEM practices and learning through various forms of making," said Pramod Khargonekar, NSF assistant director for engineering. "We embrace a broad spectrum of makers, including those who develop the innovative new designs, ideas, tools and technologies that enable making activities."
A theme of the Week of Making is the diversity among makers. The faire alone will have representation from minority-serving institutions, tribal colleges, and hispanic-serving institutions. Broadening participation in science and engineering fields is a priority for NSF.
In 2015 alone, NSF has provided vital support to fundamental science, engineering and education research, citizen science, and the integration of research and education activities--all of which form the foundation for makers.
Last week, NSF invited the research community to submit early concept grant proposals to conduct exploratory work on untested, but potentially transformative ideas or approaches that advance the frontier of knowledge with respect to STEM learning and design thinking.
These projects could explore a range of making-related aspects. They could leverage existing making knowledge to explore new ideas and models of formal and informal STEM learning, reveal the processes and potential benefits of learning (e.g., design thinking) in the maker context, and/or investigate and test the efficacy of new approaches to design and innovation enabled by maker spaces and practices.
"We believe there are deep connections between STEM learning and maker activities, but how do we begin to measure those connections?" said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, NSF assistant director for the Directorate for Education and Human Resources. "Even more importantly, how might we use this knowledge to successfully increase retention and broaden participation in STEM for students and faculty?"
NSF seeks proposal ideas that transcend typical approaches to begin to answer these pivotal questions.
To further aid the conversation among the learning, research and making communities, NSF will sponsor a Maker Summit in the D.C. metro area in fall 2015, which will be organized by the American Society for Engineering Education.
The summit is intended to serve as a catalyst to establish networks and communication channels among stakeholders in the maker community. The event will draw dozens of participants from five different sectors: informal learning in museum/library settings; making/hacking in community spaces; university maker spaces; engineering and science researchers who engage making; and education researchers who engage in making.
An innovation spectrum
This year's National Maker Faire, which is being held in Washington, D.C., builds upon the 2014 White House Maker Faire.
At this year's expanded event, NSF joins other federal agencies, companies, academic institutions, nonprofits and communities nationwide in an effort to provide students and entrepreneurs access to tools, spaces and mentors to participate in making and to study the impact of making on learning.
NSF-funded projects will also be featured in a special "government makes" showcase, where federally funded makers will provide demonstrations. Making may include interests as diverse as 3-D printing, customized robotics, remixing electronics and expressions of STEM and art, so long as it is grounded in open access to tools and expertise.
Beyond D.C., NSF-funded making and making research activities are happening now all across the country.
Are you a maker? Participate in the Week of Making.
This morning the White House released a fact sheet listing Making-related current and future activities being undertaken by government, private-sector and community organizations.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2017, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.
Useful NSF Web Sites: