Unleashing Creativity and Technical Skills with Makerspaces and STEAM for Kids
Makerspaces, fab labs, or tinkering studios — you name it — give kids a safe and fun place to make, tinker, and learn new things. Experimenting can help young makers develop their creativity and ability to solve problems.
Makerspaces work on the principle of the acronym STEAM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths. It is a way of teaching that combines these five subjects to give students a chance to learn about things from different fields.
STEAM education aims to foster creativity, innovation, and problem-solving skills in kids. It focuses on project-based, hands-on learning and encourages kids to think critically, work together, and use what they have learned in the real world. STEAM education is often used in makerspaces and other informal learning spaces to let students explore and experiment with technology, engineering, and design. We also follow it at the Vivita creativity accelerator for future kidpreneurs.
This post discusses the technological and engineering aspects of a STEAM-based makerspace. We introduce the devices we use in our creativity accelerators, Vivistops, and how these devices could help kids develop creativity.
A laser cutter is a device used to cut or engrave materials like wood, plastic, metal, and fabric using a laser beam. Mirrors point the laser beam at the material, and a lens turns it into a pinpoint of intense light. A precise cut or engraving is produced by burning or vaporising the material.
In makerspaces, kids only use laser cutters under the supervision of an adult or qualified maker educator who is familiar with safety protocols and knows how to operate the equipment. Kids should be taught the correct safety procedures and standards for using laser cutters. The Vivita team’s top priority is ensuring the safety of youngsters.
Vivita has created laser cutting software that is easier for kids to use. We have named it VIVIWARE Shell. It is an application for drawing that brings your images to life and accelerates your creativity. With a tablet and a touch, a CAD program (Computer-Aided Design — a software program for creating 2D or 3D technical drawings and models) can make drawings for the laser cutter. It enables the fabrication of various shapes without specialised knowledge.
3D printing — also referred to as digital fabrication technology or additive manufacturing — is a process that creates a physical object from a digital model by building it layer by layer. This technology has been around since the 1980s but has become more available and affordable in recent years. After the printer reads the digital model, it extrudes a material, like plastic, metal, composites, smart materials etc., in the shape of each layer. The layers are fused to create the final object, often by melting the material and extruding it through a small nozzle as a filament.
There are several tasks for which a 3D printer can be used. Some of them are prototyping, manufacturing, making sculptures and other works of art, making spare and replacement parts, and medical uses (like prosthetics, implants, and instruments for planning surgery). 3D printing can be a fun and educational activity for children to discover the possibilities of digital fabrication.
Aside from the laser cutter and 3D printer already mentioned, Vivita has also made other software and hardware for prototyping, designing, and using playful, child-friendly methods that make it easier for kids to come up with new ideas.
One such device is the VIVIWARE Cell Electronics Prototyping Module. VIVIWARE Cell is an open software and hardware ecosystem to enhance your creativity. It is a set of simple, modular, and scalable tools for rapid prototyping with less programming, which makes it easy to try new things. This prototyping tool brings ideas to life and expands kids’ thoughts. In Vivita, we wish kids could turn their ideas into prototypes for toys, electronic musical instruments, robots, digital art, and more. We want them to enjoy the process of trial and error while developing their ideas.
Our next project is to create an art design/installation that could combine all these tools to create a unique experience for each individual. We are happy to share new technologies and support the development and journey of our eager world changers.
Text: Merilyn Haugas