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ACST Holds First School Maker Faire
By Adam Campbell 25-Jun-15
The American Cooperative School of Tunis (ACST) in Tunisia held the first ever School Maker Faire authorized by Make magazine on 16 April. Maker Faires are part science fair, part county fair, and something entirely new. They are an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, authors, and artists. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned. There were over 120 Maker Faires across the globe in 2014, however these great events are just becoming accessible to schools. Over 400 students participated in 25 different exhibits and hands-on activities at ACST’s April event. Ice cream making with liquid nitrogen, a leaf blower hovercraft, construction projects, water rockets, giant mazes, and a vertical wind tunnel testing lift and aerodynamics were some of the highlights. The idea to host a Maker Faire grew out of an existing design technology program. Design tech challenges kids to solve real-world problems with hands-on design and product creation. We had noticed at the design tech exhibitions—set up like traditional art shows—that kids were tempted to touch and explore the displays. In fact, they wanted to participate in making things themselves! The playful, collaborative spirit of the Maker Faire organization gave us the foundation to create a hands-on event that was more focused on the student experience, rather than a matter of simply displaying projects to view. Growing out of a need to foster problem-solving skills, engineering thought processes, and integrating math, science, and technology courses, schools around the globe are beginning to bring project-based learning back into the classroom. Industrial arts and home economics courses of the past are being reinvented with a distinctly high-tech twist and are now being offered at a level of academic rigor that is required for college-bound students. Kids work in teams to tackle challenges and develop solutions, while 3D modeling, 3D printing, laser cutters, vinyl cutters, milling machines, and traditional workshops allow them to bring their designs to life. Ideas recently restricted to the digital world can now be brought off the screen to be tested, explored, shared, and actually used! The event represented a great awakening for the school community. The collaborative, creative energy that the Maker Faire inspired can still be felt, weeks later. Students not enrolled in technology and design courses at the school are finding their way to the design center to work on personal projects they have been developing at home. Proposals are now being heard to expand the design center to make it an even bigger focal point of the school community and student experience at ACST. For info on hosting a Maker Faire at your school, visit: makerfaire.com/school.
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