DARPA Mentor Award to Bring Making to Education

DARPA Mentor Award to Bring Making to Education

I’m happy to announce today that O’Reilly’s MAKE division, in partnership with Otherlab of San Francisco, has received an award from The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in support of its Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach (MENTOR) program. The team will help advance DARPA’s MENTOR program, an initiative aimed at introducing new design tools and collaborative practices of making to high school students.

The new Makerspace program, developed by Dale Dougherty of MAKE and Dr. Saul Griffith of Otherlab, will integrate online tools for design and collaboration with low-cost options for physical workspaces where students may access educational support to gain practical hands-on experience with new technologies and innovative processes to design and build projects. The program has a goal of reaching 1000 high schools over four years, starting with a pilot program of 10 high schools in California during the 2012-2013 school year.

The MENTOR effort is part of the DARPA’s Adaptive Vehicle Make program portfolio and is aimed at engaging high school students in a series of collaborative distributed manufacturing and design experiments. The overarching objective of MENTOR is to develop and motivate a next generation of system designers and manufacturing innovators by exposing them to the principles of foundry-style digital manufacturing through modern prize-based design challenges.

Dr. Regina Dugan, Director of DARPA, has said: “One of the biggest challenges we face as a nation is the decline in our ability to make things.”Having seen that quote, Saul Griffith and I decided to apply for the DARPA MENTOR program. Saul Griffith, a MAKE columnist, co-developer of HowToons, and an entrepreneur, is a master maker himself who has unique insights into the future of design and engineering. I’m excited to partner with him to develop a collaborative platform for students to share their designs and projects and to encourage high schools to build the capacity for making things and to offer this learning opportunity to more students. Part of the Makerspace program will be to use Maker Faire as a venue for bringing makers and educators together as well as showcasing student projects.

There is a lot of interest in how making can transform education and many of us are working to take advantage of the momentum of the maker movement and seize the moment to bring much needed change to education. This DARPA Mentor award allows us to accelerate this development as a national priority. I see us as building bridges between the maker community and the educational community so that we can understand how to bring the resources and practices of makers into high schools, into an educational context that is valuable for students and supportive of teachers.

We have created the website, Makerspace.com, to begin organizing information about the program for potential participants. We have also created a form to build a directory of Makerspaces so that we can help set up a network of participants who want to share ideas and implementations. As I’ve used the term here, Makerspace is an educationally-oriented hackerspace, designed to address the goals of young makers and educators who work with them. One of the goals of this Makerspace program is to find low-cost options for Makerspaces so that we might have more of them in our communities, in places like middle schools, community centers, and high schools.

Here’s a May 2011 TEDx talk by Dr. Saul Griffith:
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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

View more articles by Dale Dougherty