People around the world are using the technology of online social networks to connect and share their projects, they call themselves “Makers” A Maker is someone who makes stuff: apparel, robots, crafts, food, furniture, art, or electronic gadgets. This term, “Maker,” is described by Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of WIRED magazine, as “a new category of builders who are using open-source methods and the latest technology to bring manufacturing out of its traditional factory context, and into the realm of the personal desktop computer”.
The Maker Movement is a subculture that pushes innovation to the limit, encouraging new applications of technologies. Within the culture there’s an enthusiasm for invention, prototyping, and applying practical skills in new creative ways. Makers want to figure out how to make or do stuff on their own. They have a passion for creating, building, and sharing in a gamut of topics including recipes, gardening, sewing, mechanics, and many more. Maker efforts are happening in garages, libraries, community centers and in Utah, National Guard Armories and Training installations.
How do Youth Benefit?
The Maker Movement embraces the idea of igniting the spark in young people to create, collaborate, and develop 4-H science abilities. Instead of telling youth they need to do better in math and science, Maker projects pull youth into STEM disciplines through hands-on projects that improve these skills in an informal setting. Maker projects are cut from the same cloth as any other 4-H project. The process of making allows youth to follow their own interests and passions and master a variety of technical skills. Making is about empowering youth to recognize they can create new things and bring their ideas to life.
For National Guard Youth we found that Maker provides an additional benefit, developing resiliency that allows kids experience challenges and identify strategies to help them overcome them. The ability to identify and communicate what the challenge is, try to solve, brainstorm solutions, and communicate with others about their ideas. Utilizing the experiential learning model, allows time after the activity to reflect on the process, what was learned, how challenges were overcome and how we can apply the same skills from this project to challenges that youth face in their lives.
How is it used with Military Youth?
Military Makers Camp
Summer of 2015 Utah 4-H, working with military partners conducted two, five day “Military Makers” camps. Each day the make projects had a theme ex “Games to Play” or “Grow it”. Making their own battery powered “Operation” game or junk drawer robot taught military youth how to troubleshoot to solve problems and helped them realize that failure isn’t a dead end or time to quit but a chance to redesign.
To meet the needs of Air Guard and Reserves the “Flight Makers” camp provided a chance for military youth to spend 2 full days with making a variety of things that fly: rockets, airplanes, gliders and parachutes were all part of the experience. As part of the camp experience, and important part of a Maker Program, the showcase, is included. Parents and family arrive early the last day of camp to watch the Camp Airshow that includes demonstrations of the various Flight Maker Projects.
National Guard Maker 4-H Clubs
Utah National Guard Youth Coordinators conduct maker clubs to engage with the youth they serve. The topics vary from tying flies for fly fishing, soldering electricity projects, pinewood derby cars and design challenges. Design Challenges are a fun, way to provide Maker experiences for a relatively low cost. Youth are designed with a “challenge” build a zipline that can drop a marble on a target or foot powered ping pong ball launcher for example. Then using the design process, they brainstorm, build, test, redesign and showcase their design. Throughout the process the teen or adult leader serves as a guide on the side, asking questions, making observations and positive comments but not telling the kids how to do the project. After the showcase it is important to process the activity, reflecting and applying on the experience.
As you see youth struggle, become frustrated and triumphantly solve problems, you will help them build confidence they didn’t even know they had. You will notice their strengths and be able to help those master skills even faster. They will develop resiliency when faced with challenges. These are skills that will help young people not just survive but thrive. Through the Maker Movement, you can make a positive difference in the lives of military youth.
For more information contact the authors and visit the eXtension Maker Community http://www.extedtechs.org/makers/
Military Makers and Authors
Dave Francis, Extension Associate Professor, Utah State University
Paul Hill, Extension Associate Professor, Utah State University