Not the Innovative Educator of the Year

So I nominated myself for VSTE Innovative Educator of the Year because the award included free conference registration. Winning would also have been a great argument to convince my district to pay for hotel and travel expenses. It felt awkward to be so self-promotional but I was pursuing every option to attend a great conference. Unfortunately, I didn’t win. I was hoping that my involvement with the VSTE Hackerspace over the past 3 years would help. The educator that won implemented a 3D fabrication pilot with 3 interesting student projects.

I have 2 presentation proposals accepted and am scrambling to find some help to pay for the conference. Here is my non-winning application.

What has this educator accomplished recently that you consider innovative in the field of education?

Josh Ajima has spent the past 3 years passionately advocating for hands on maker education in the classroom. He has promoted the use of game-changing instructional technologies such as electronics, robotics, programming, and digital fabrication tools including 3D printers, laser cutters and CNC mills. He actively shares his work on his personal blog at and through his Twitter account @DesignMakeTeach.

Ajima has a strong focus on inspiring other schools to start makerspaces. He has conducted makerspace workshops across Virginia (Brainstorm and nationally at conferences such as ISTE ( and and His Makerspace Starter Kit has been viewed and downloaded thousands of times and inspired educators, including VSTE members, to create makerspaces in their schools.

He has also promoted the cause of education in the broader maker movement by serving as a teacher member of the Make: Magazine Digital Fabrication team (, panelist at the Make: Education Forum ( and as a presenter at Maker Faires including World Maker Faire NY ( and

He has been an active part of the VSTE Conferences conducting multiple sessions each of the last 3 years in the VSTE Hackerspace and for the past two years helped create hands-on learning events as part of the Hackerspace committee. He has premiered two interactive art exhibits that integrate maker technology and art at the VSTE convention Hackerspace. 3D Gumball Gallery ( and the Interactive Art Synthesizer (

In the past year, Ajima has served as the team lead for the Loudoun Academy of Science’s winning entry for Virginia in the Inventables 50 States Carver Contest ( and The CNC machine adds to a growing Digital Fabrication lab that includes 3D printers and testing equipment allowing students to conduct a wide range of engineering research projects. He also served as the team lead for Dominion High School’s winning entry in the US Department of Education’s CTE Makeover Challenge bringing $20,000 in cash plus additional prizes to build a school based makerspace ( and The prize allows for the reinvention of the CTE program as well as providing access to real-world tools for the entire school. Most recently, he has been selected as a 2016-2017 Stanford FabLearn Fellow ( and will be helping to create open educational resources and expand the maker education movement.
What is the scope of this person’s influence?

Josh Ajima’s work for the effective integration of instructional technology in education spans from direct one-on-one consultations with teachers and model lessons with individual classes to collaborating with educators across the globe. He has helped individual teachers write classroom grants to build solutions for the UN Sustainable Development Goals and to construct a 3D printer to conduct student science research. He has conducted ongoing school-wide professional development on BYOT and project based learning. He has written successful grants to provide teachers in his school the access to tools and resources to support those projects. On the district level, he has researched and provided information concerning makerspace needs and equipment for the architects developing a new science/CTE academy as well as served on the curriculum writing committee. He has conducted workshops and webinars across the state and expanded the reach of maker technology into new content areas. As an example, Ajima was a featured presenter at the Virginia Council of Teacher’s of Mathematics (VCTM) conference this year. ([1019619].docx) On the national level, Ajima has presented at conferences such as ISTE, SXSW Create, and World Maker Faire NY. As a Stanford FabLearn Fellow, he will collaborate with a global team of educators to create educational resources.

Is there a particular project, initiative, or accomplishment that deserves our attention in evaluating this educator for receiving the VSTE innovations award?

One of the most important initiatives that the nominee has worked on is to increase the diversity in online maker communities and digital content repositories. The lack of diversity in these technology related communities provides students a rich opportunity to contribute educational content related to history, culture and identity. The National Hispanic Heritage Month Maker Challenge is an example where the nominee was able to identify an authentic challenging problem and have students in his school make a meaningful contribution to the world. Thingiverse, the largest repository for 3D content, had zero relevant content with the keyword latino or hispanic. The nominee mobilized ELL, art and Spanish students to curate and create new content related to Hispanic Heritage. The collection the students created was featured on the front page of Thingiverse for the entire National Hispanic Heritage Month and is once again being featured this year. (

Read the story of the first year of the National Hispanic Heritage Month Maker Challenge in this series of posts.
Part 1 – 2015:
Part 2 – 2015:
Part 3 – 2015:

The nominee continues this work in 2016. (