Shooting for the Stars

On Monday, 14 Year-old Ahmed Mohamed, brought his homemade clock to school to show his engineering teacher. By the end of the day he ended up being taken away in handcuffs (read more here). What should have been an opportunity to encourage Ahmed’s aspirations in engineering turned into suspicion by educators and a police accusation of a hoax bomb.

Although it is widely understood that schools must ensure the safety of all stakeholders, how can we as educators create spaces where students like Ahmed may grow as an engineer or inventor? How do we make inventing commonplace so that when a homemade clock shows up our first thought isn’t bomb? Instead our first thought could be “Wow! Another cool kid-powered invention!”

At Cal Farley’s we have begun to build those inventor spaces into our daily lives.  Designing, programing, and building are skills we actively encourage and promote on our campus.  We believe that a whole community can become a learning lab, a concept we call Community As Lab.   To support this effort we have created hands-on learning laboratories where youth have dedicated spaces for tinkering, designing and making.  We believe that these activities stimulate learning by providing real world application for principles learned in the classroom.

Thankfully for Ahmed there was an outpouring of support from all over the world encouraging him to continue doing what he is doing.  Do you know any youth like Ahmed?  Here’s how to get them and your school involved…

How to become involved:
Create a maker space in your school.
Find a community makerspace, like these in Dallas and Milwaukee, or check out TechShop, a chain of maker spaces located across the United States.
Look for a Maker Faire near you and take a  young maker to visit and actively participate in the event.

Books I recommend:
Design. Make, Play: Growing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators by Margaret Honey and David E. Kanter
Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager

I leave you with this video from Community As Lab’s recent rocket launch.  We truly do want our kids to shoot for the stars.