Think. Make. Learn. Repeat.

The Maker{Futures} programme is helping to develop the next generation of problem solvers through a fun and creative approach to STEM-based subjects.


The world is changing faster than ever. As we enter the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, emerging technologies are creating new industries, changing existing ones and transforming the way things are made. At the same time, innovations in digital fabrication, artificial intelligence and robotics are changing our workplaces, our schools and our home environments. Combine this with challenges like climate change, energy consumption and food security facing the world and it’s clear that the next generation will play a critical role in humanity’s future.

These changes mean that our workforce needs to be equipped with the 21st-century skills to thrive in this new world. It’s never been so important to engage young people in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. The engineering industry alone faces a skills shortage of unprecedented levels – it’s estimated that the UK will require 1.8 million people to be trained within the next four years.

But sadly, many children are turned off STEM in their early years and fail to re-engage. The situation is even starker for children from low-income households, non-traditional backgrounds and BAME communities, due to a lack of visible representation in the sector and limited resource and support in the community. This is where Maker{Futures} come in.

The Maker{Futures} team arrive in the Maker{Move} van to help teach school pupils STEM subjects.

The Maker{Futures} team arrive in the Maker{Move} van to help teach school pupils STEM subjects.

What is Maker{Futures}?

The Maker{Futures} programme takes a STEAM approach to teaching STEM subjects – the additional ‘A’ referring to the embedding of the arts. Maker education also differs to STEM in its focus on developing ‘makers’ through a ‘maker mindset’ – it’s less about the finished result and more about strengthening skills such as critical thinking and problem solving.

Working with teachers, schools, parents, and communities, Maker{Futures} engages primary school children with STEM from a very early age, empowering and inspiring them to follow careers in these fields. It’s a programme grounded in evidence-based research, harnessing Sheffield’s world-renowned expertise in education, engineering, manufacturing and science.

Maker{Futures} is perfectly placed to improve the life chances of children and address the UK’s increasing skills gap. And it’s already producing fantastic results.”

Modern solutions to old-fashioned problems

We know that schools don’t always have the resources to teach STEM subjects in the way they’d like. The Maker{Move} van – a mobile makerspace housing cleverly designed mobile pods, loaded with maker activities and challenges – means the resources children need can be brought to them.
Northfield Junior School in Dronfield, Derbyshire was one of the first schools to benefit from this innovative new approach. The team arrived in the bespoke van, loaded up with everything needed to set up a large makerspace in the school hall. Around 170 children were able to take part in a range of challenges. From building bikes to creating dens, taking part in electrical scavenger hunts and experiencing virtual reality, the day was a huge success.

Pupils from Northfield Junior School put their problem-solving skills to the test.

Children were encouraged to ‘create like a maker’ using the Maker{Cycle}, a process where children look for problems and challenges, think how they can make improvements, create models and test their ideas. It’s an approach centred around encouraging innovation – a vital skill important for many jobs.

And it’s not just children who are getting inspired. A huge benefit of the mobile makerspace is the ability to show teachers why maker education is important and to encourage them to think about how they could bring more making into school education.

Pupils at work

A pupil gets to grips with the ‘build a bike’ activity.

Rebecca Timperly, Headteacher at Northfield Junior School, said, “The day was amazing! I think the ‘build a bike’ activity was great. The children really engaged and worked together to figure out what goes where, and it really put their problem-solving skills to the test. I can’t wait to repeat it!” She described the day overall as “one of the best ever” and was amazed to see the sustained levels of positive engagement by the children.

This is just one example of the impact of the Maker{Futures} programme, and there are many more, from sessions in libraries on robotics, electronics, 3D printing and coding, to pop-up makerspaces appearing in community centres. Collaborations with museums based on the art of John Ruskin and the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci led to the creation of family projects to complete at home. Not to mention the Maker{Futures} response to the pandemic, which saw them create packs of resources to support home schooling.

Maker{Futures} is changing the way people think about education. By engaging children with STEM subjects from an early age, encouraging creativity and providing support for educators, the programme is unlocking the potential of thousands of children from the broadest range of backgrounds. The potential here is huge.

Beyond 2021

VR

A pupil tests one of the virtual reality sets.

From our industrial heritage to our world-renowned expertise in advanced manufacturing, Sheffield has long been known as a ‘city of makers’. It’s in our DNA. Now, Maker{Futures} is carrying on this proud tradition and inspiring the next generation of makers. Following successful early pilots, the proven potential to harness children’s natural early enthusiasm for STEM means there is already national interest in the scheme. Partnerships have been forged with the Victoria and Albert Museum, Museums Sheffield, the National Videogame Museum and others, preparing the ground for a national roll-out of ‘maker’ programmes underwritten by a ‘Sheffield Maker’ quality kitemark. It‘s an incredibly exciting and ambitious project with enormous potential and scalability.

 

For Maker{Futures} to continue, we need your support. The impact of your donation could resonate for generations to come.

To find out more about the project, and how you can lend support, please visit: makerfutures.org

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