Maker's Red Box 2020. 06. 15. 10:15
Fun fact: most kids are eager to learn – if they get the right support. For the better part of the last decade, Péter Fuchs, co-creator of Maker’s Red Box, has been experimenting with new ways to unleash children’s talent, hidden or otherwise, through maker education. This is how the first Maker’s Red Box came to be. The idea behind the curriculum was to let young creators build anything, even cities from scratch, using the latest technology and the power of storytelling, and to help teachers engage students in learning and exploring, while developing skills that will always be in demand. We’ve asked Péter about the future of education and how Maker’s Red Box can help us get there.
What is the biggest challenge education is facing now?
We must completely change the way we think about education. There’s no going back to what was normal before the pandemic. By now, children in most countries can’t wait to return to school because they miss social interactions but that doesn’t mean they’re motivated by their classes. I didn’t exactly have the best experience going through the Hungarian educational system myself, and that’s why I’ve set out to create better ones for my children and their peers.
I think schools should inspire kids to find what they’re good at and encourage them to follow their path. When we first attended the Bett Show in London, a guy asked me what we were selling. I told him we were selling motivation. When I explain to people what we do, I usually get two types of reactions: they either say they wish they had gone to a school like this or they wish their children could go to a school like this.
How did you get started?
About 5 years ago, we organised our first workshops for kids where we taught them programming basics, 3D printing and laser-cutting. These are great for motivating kids because, one, they learn skills they can actually use later in life and, two, they have the opportunity to actively shape the world around them. But it also became clear early on that if they don’t feel challenged, they lose interest pretty fast. No matter how exciting 3D printing is, kids get bored with it within five minutes and want to move on to the next thing. So we started throwing around ideas on how to change this and how to keep them engaged.
How do challenges solve this problem?
If you tell students their task will be to go on a mission to colonise Mars or build the city of the future to save humanity, working together won’t feel like learning at all. They become so involved in the story that all they want to do is give it their best shot. Not only for themselves but also for the others. Give them access to 3D printers and professional design software, and there you have it. They suddenly have a chance to change, improve and contribute to the ‘adult world’. That’s a huge motivator. After receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback both from kids and parents, we started working on scaling things up and figuring out how to help other people run workshops like ours. That’s how the Maker’s Red Box was born.
How is it different from other STEAM-focused educational kits available on the market?
With STEAM kits, there’s usually a ‘recipe’ you need to follow. You open the box, assemble the parts and everyone ends up with the same robot. That’s not what Maker’s Red Box is about. We pretty much give you the entire cookbook and it’s up to you what you make of it. As I often say, it’s basically creativity in a box. We’ve packed it with tons of know-how, from methodologies through technical tips to teaching advice. And we’ve wrapped it all in a great story. No one else has done this before.
What are the biggest challenges for implementing maker or STEAM education at schools?
There are roughly 12,000 makerspaces in the world and more and more schools build their own fablabs or STEAM labs year after year. The problem is that they don’t exactly know what to do with them.
Setting up and playing around with a 3D printer or laser-cutter is one thing but how do you integrate it into the curriculum?
What will be the students’ task? This is where Maker’s Red Box comes into the picture. It’s not enough to ask students to create their own superheroes. You also need a well-structured script that leads them from one challenge to the next using cliffhangers and gamification. This is how you encourage them to express themselves through their superhero personas. And they won’t even notice that in the meantime they’ve learned how to use 3D printers, laser-cutters and professional design software or developed skills like working as a team, pitching ideas and solving problems.
How to get started with a makerspace and the Maker’s Red Box?
I often say that if you complete the curriculum with 12 students, you end up with 13 makers. In our experience, any teacher can use Maker’s Red Box, all they need is an open mind. Our primary goal is to inspire others to make, teachers and students alike. This is what our curriculums are about and what makes them so easy to like.
How long have you been a maker yourself?
I never learned programming or engineering at school but I’ve been using 3D printers for 14 years now and even have a laser-cutter at home. If I’m trying to solve a problem, I immediately think of microcontrollers. I teach electronics to vocational school teachers, half of whom are usually electrical engineers. They often mistake me for a programmer or a mechanical engineer and are quite surprised when I tell them I actually studied art history.
The important thing is to be passionate about making things and solving problems. It doesn’t matter how you do it – just do it.