Fremont Takes the 2018 Maker Faire by Storm
“Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new …”
Suffice it to say that the Maker Faire, founded in the Bay Area, is a pretty magical place. It’s a place where all ages of tech and science enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, engineers, artists, and students come to “show what they have made and to share what they have learned.”
At this year’s Maker’s Faire held last month, 250 Fremont teachers, students, and parents joined over 150,000 other people to explore the San Mateo County Fairgrounds with their eyes wide open to the skills and opportunities of the future. One teacher remarked, “It was extremely inspiring since we had no idea there were so many different ways to be innovative. I felt very challenged and inspired.”
Fremont’s delegation included 26 schools representing every attendance area and grade-span. And while there are varying resources available at individual schools, they all found relevant connections for their students. Over 90 percent of teachers surveyed after the event agreed that the types of activities displayed at Maker Faire would be intellectually challenging and rigorous for students. And, 96 percent strongly agreed that maker education would help prepare students for college and careers.
Although most teachers were attending for the first time, some experienced Maker Faire pros used the event as an opportunity for students to showcase their mastery of engineering, design, and fabrication projects. Students from Washington High School shared their prototype designs of robots, Ferris wheels, and electronic skateboards from their Project Lead the Way class. Students from American High School organized their own participation at the Maker Faire to share the work of their “RE:Use” environmental leadership club by teaching members of the public how to turn trash into treasure. Activities included making a reusable bag out of old T-shirts and crafting jewelry from spent gift cards.
Irvington High School teacher Kristin Berbawy brought 81 students who showcased a wide variety of individual and group projects such as a “smart” bathroom mirror that provides weather reports and other data as you brush your teeth in the morning, an immersive virtual reality Pac-Man arcade game, a variety of 3D-printed mechanical toys, and robots built to accomplish tasks like writing and erasing on a dry-erase board.
One student from Irvington built a drone to carry an LED array capable of producing over 175,000 lumens of light — enough to turn night into day! Police and public safety professionals at the Maker Faire lined up to learn more about the search and rescue capabilities of the drone while electronic enthusiasts, programmers, and professional engineers quizzed the student about the fine details of the project — not to see if the student knew what he was talking about (he clearly did) — but rather to learn from the student to apply the ideas to their own endeavors. These projects caught the attention of the Maker Faire staff. Stay tuned for an article about Berbawy and her students in Make Magazine this fall.
All of these stories show that something important is happening in Fremont. The teachers are on the cutting edge of learning, providing students opportunities to acquire the skills that our advanced manufacturing companies say they are looking for: creative-problem-solving and the ability to learn quickly in a new situation. As one teacher described, “Project-based learning converts kids from being book learners to people who are interested in actually applying the concepts they are learning about.”
Teachers across the district want to do more to engage their students in rigorous, relevant, and empowering learning experiences — but they need support. An analysis of survey results from FUSD teachers attending Maker Faire indicates four main areas of need: Tools and Supplies, Classrooms and Spaces, Professional Development, and Networking/Leadership.
Fremont used to be a farming community, and it knows a thing or two about making things grow. Right now, we have the seeds of a movement. Teachers are ready to sprout, and students are eager to grow. Now we need to prepare the soil to make sure each seed has a chance to develop.