FabLearn Fellowship Application

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Applications for the 2016-2017 Stanford FabLearn Fellows Program are open until July 15, 2016. http://fablearn.stanford.edu/fellows-new/stanford2016/ I applied for the program previously but was relatively new to maker education at the time. Since my last application, I have continued to work to promote digital fabrication and making in the classroom. Hopefully, those experiences mean a stronger application this year.

The application is fairly straight forward with basic contact and job info as well as questions about the types of tools and equipment available in your space. The heart of the application is five short answer questions. My responses are below.

Describe your experience with digital fabrication and making in your learning space.

STEM Camp: In 2013, I started out as the ‘3D printer guy’ at summer STEM camp introducing students to 3D design and 3D printing. For the past two years, I’ve helped create a pop-up makerspace in which students design, make and share a solution to the problem of invasive species in the Chesapeake Bay. Students explore a variety of maker tools including, electronics, robotic and 3D printing to create their final products.

Mobile Makerspace: During the school year, I store my maker tools in a motley assortment of carts and bins. I bring these mobile makerspaces into classrooms for maker integrated lessons. This past year, I worked with a 10th grade World History class to create solutions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and an ELL class to publish Hispanic heritage designs on Thingiverse.

Academy of Science: I’ve helped develop a digital fabrication lab which now includes multiple 3D printers, a desktop CNC and a Mark 10 force gauge. The first year only a few projects included 3D printing. This year, I helped mentor multiple students on their research projects and almost all of the engineering projects included digital fabrication or maker tools.

Please describe a specific project you worked on with your students during which you learned something new.

I worked with science academy students to win a grant to purchase and build a 3D printer kit for student research projects. The experience from the idea to a final science fair project included lots of lessons about failure and perseverance in MakerEd. We started with a 3D printing club of 10 students that met 1 to 2 times a week for 35 minutes. I learned this was a terrible way to build a functioning 3D printer with too many people and too little time. I learned that some teens need lessons on how to use a screwdriver.

We started making real progress when one student took ownership of the 3D printer build for his own project. I was skeptical about some of the student’s ideas but practiced biting my tongue and letting the project to 3D print spinal disc replacements unfold. At one point I saw the student creating a complicated solution under a tight timeline. Rather than telling the student what I thought was wrong, I learned the power of asking a student “What if?” In the end, the student took all their experience in the project and created an innovative new technique for 3D printing.

How is digital fabrication and making being integrated into your school or organization? Also, describe your ideal “one year from now” scenario in terms of integration.

In my school district, digital fabrication and making are starting to grow beyond clubs and enrichment and into tools that classroom teachers use to teach significant content and important competencies. Part of the catalyst for the change is a districtwide initiative in which students work to create public products for the world that address authentic and challenging problems.

This year I saw math teachers reaching out to 3D print custom math manipulatives for ELL students and models of revolutions of solids for calculus classes. Science students are increasingly turning to digital fabrication and maker gear (quadcopters) as both research topics and tools. Art teachers are seeing the need for students to explore digital fabrication as a new medium that bridges the gap between digital and physical.

My school has been lucky enough to win a substantial grant this summer that will allow the build out of a school makerspace as well as mobile maker carts for use in the classroom. The grant provides a great opportunity for PD with my staff. A year from now, I would like all the teachers in my building to be using resources provided by the grant to incorporate making into their classes.

Please describe your employment experiences and specialties which are relevant to FabLearn Fellows.

Out of college, I worked as a lab tech in a neuroscience lab. The grunt work of research including lab prep, ordering, safety and waste disposal are essentials for FabLab life. I taught 8th grade physical science for several years and feel teaching the fundamentals of simple machines, forces, electronics and logic have equipped me to explain the tools and methods of digital fabrication and making to both student and adults. I’ve also been a Cisco instructor (CCNA) which has been invaluable in learning troubleshooting and technology from the hardware layer all the way up to the application layer.

In my current role as a high school instructional technology coach, I work with educators to improve instructional practices and have applied myself to bringing making and digital fabrication into the classroom. The last 3 years I have run a summer STEM camp makerspace. My personal passion has led to opportunities to write as a digital fabrication reviewer for Make magazine and present about MakerEd and 3D printing at ISTE, Maker Faire NY, the Make: Education Forum and SXSW: Create.

Please explain what you expect to learn from joining the FabLearn Fellows Program, how your students will benefit, and how it might advance your professional career.

I started out exploring digital fabrication and MakerEd as a personal professional development journey. The majority of my work has been under the radar using personal resources in one-on-one situations. The growing acceptance of the principles of making in the classroom means opportunities in my school and district to create larger systemic change.

Joining the FabLearn Fellows Program will broaden my formal understanding of how maker education works in a variety of settings. In particular, I expect to learn approaches for inclusive practices to engage vulnerable students in making. Working with a cohort of educators addressing similar challenges will give me the skills and confidence to reach more teachers in my school and district and deepen my work with students.

Working with the next FabLearn Fellows cohort to create new resources will also force me out of my comfortable bubble and create a quantum leap in the quality of my maker education work. My school district is building a magnet STEM academy opening in 2018 with a dedicated makerspace staffed by two full-time maker educators. My experiences as a FabLearn Fellow would contribute greatly to fulfilling those duties.