Real World Connections

Show students the potential their making can have on other people's lives.

Photo of Mark Carlucci
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I love the idea of making. Any day that goes by where I haven't made, or at least worked on making, something, I feel lazy and like I wasted the day. Be it spending a few hours in the kitchen refining a recipe, building a new "toy," or designing new graphics on my computer; I am always derive pleasure from the process of making things. I have been trying to embed this passion in my teaching, but, in many cases, when I describe how passionate I get, my students often give me the "what-a-weirdo" look. 

In my design and engineering classes I try a weekly activity to inspire my students to be creative and innovative, giving them various "challenges" to create something from various materials or to just be imaginative. It seems that for many students they just see these as an activity for marks. Just another class assignment and not something enriching. 

Last spring I was provided with an opportunity to change that. I was approached by a local community group that assists people with developmental disabilities. They were looking for assistance in creating an easy and affordable solution to provide assistive switches for their clients. The solution they were using cost over $500 and was difficult to use. I thought it was a great project and awesome cause so I jumped on board to help out with my class.

I presented the project to my fall class and several students were volunteered to take it on. The following video shows the results of the project:

I felt great about the results of the project, but the best part was the attitudes of some of my students. Initially, several of the students involved found the project to be interesting but just another school activity. Once they saw the included video, they had a much different perspective. They saw how the buttons they had made helped someone.

That was the most important part, "helped someone." They did something that was "real," in the sense that it wasn't just something that was going to sit on some shelf in the back of the room or brought home just to show mom and dad. They were involved in something that made an impact on someone's life. 

If we can provide students with the opportunity to work on project that have an impact outside the classroom, I think we can inspire more students to be makers. The intrinsic value that many of us get from making isn't always enough to get students inspired. Sometimes giving them that external reward and showing them that making matters.

We need to find projects within our local communities to which students can provide solutions. 


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jessica Lura

This is fabulous! What a great opportunity for your students.

Photo of Mark Carlucci

It was an awesome opportunity. And it was a project that motivated several of my students to go make things. I have the fortune of having three of them again this semester in my tech design class. It seems like every day I have one or two of them asking questions about personal projects they are working on. Raspberry Pi systems, autonomous lawn mowers, homemade quadcopters and a free other projects. 
I never got much out of them until after they finished the button project. I think I showed them they could make something that mattered.