A Progression of Projects

In a course focused on making, many teachers like to start the year with some basic small projects. These skill-building projects introduce key skills, allowing students to get up to speed and become comfortable with their peers and work.  Classes often then move to more complex, applied projects, in which students may use some of the acquired skills and concepts to tackle a larger goal. Commonly, the final term of a class pushes students — individually or in teams — to pursue more ambitious, independently-chosen projects that require critical thinking, numerous iterations, and a final exhibition at Maker Faire or similar showcase event.

In this vein, there are three different types of projects that build upon one another:

  • Exploratory: An introductory sampler, or workshop project set, of simple, achievable projects that expose students to the basic skills within a domain. The focus of these exploratory projects are to provide students with wide exposure and familiarity, an inch deep and a mile wide.
  • Applied: More involved, cross-disciplinary projects, which may or may not cross domains, and demands that students extend and advance their beginning skills into more refined and applied approaches.
  • Portfolio: Ambitious projects largely of the students’ own design, born of students’ own passions. These are created by individuals or teams and presented for a final showcase. (To facilitate this kind of project, please refer to “Getting Started on an Independent Project.”)

A Range of Domains

Because the types of projects you may see in the Maker community cover a wide range of skills and areas, we have identified 19 domains that span many of the critical skills of making. These domains are listed below.

  1. Light Circuits
  2. Motors and Switches
  3. Sound Circuits
  4. Simple ArtBots
  5. Sensors and Robots (Sensing & Interactions)
  6. Launching / Propulsion (Rockets & Projectiles)
  7. Flight
  8. Deconstruction
  9. Construction
  10. Musical Instruments
  11. Cords and Textiles
  12. Mechanics
  13. Printing
  14. Energy / Electricity
  15. Papercraft / Cardboard Construction
  16. Programming
  17. Woodworking / Carpentry
  18. Architecture
  19. Soft Circuits / Wearables

Educators may choose a domain, then identify a project, or set of projects, that allow for a progression of skill-building. All projects are provided in a modular manner, allowing for unique customization based on a specific goal or audience. As students progress from basic skills to more advanced endeavors, we have seen students build their soft skills as well, such as increased confidence and persistence, willingness to collaborate and ask for feedback, and more careful, critical thought and problem-solving.

To further expand what the workshop project sets cover, educators may also want to consider these additional domains: alternative energy, animation, biohacking, crafts, fashion, fiber arts, fire arts, food / culinary arts, gardening, Halloween / horror, light (more LEDs, EL), microcontrollers, music, photography, recycling, robots, spying/surveillance, sustainability, toys, vehicles (including bicycles), video, water, woodworking/carpentry.

In the near future, we will be posting possible learning paths that link together different domains and skills, as well as examples of year-long plans for many Maker courses and electives.

Other Goals of a Course in Making

Besides exposing the students to the domains we listed above, we want to familiarize the students with a range of skills, tools, and materials. Some examples of these are listed in the table below. As these resources are meant to be modular, educators are welcome to create a set of projects most appropriate for their goals, with a good variety of skills, tools, and materials.

General Cross-Disciplinary Skills Specific Skills in Disciplines Tools Materials
  • safety
  • measuring
  • design
  • construction
  • troubleshooting
  • testing
  • using instruments (like multimeters)
  • choosing the right tool
  • programming
  • mapping
  • tracking
  • reading schematics
  • following patterns
  • sketching
  • documentation
  • observation (reverse engineering)
  • deconstruction/repair
  • woodworking
  • soldering / welding
  • sewing by hand
  • knitting/crochet/knots
  • molding, casting
  • interaction design
  • scissors, box cutter
  • sandpaper
  • hand tools: saw, screwdriver, hammer, wrench, pliers
  • power tools: drill, orbital sander, jig saw, chop saw, circular saw, table saw, drill press, lathe, belt sander, angle grinder
  • sewing machine
  • breadboard
  • soldering iron
  • TIG welder
  • MIG welder
  • 2D printers (including presses)
  • laser cutter
  • 3D printer
  • Processing
  • Scratch
  • C (esp for Arduino)
  • CAD software
  • wood
  • cardboard
  • fabric
  • metal
  • paper
  • plastics
  • LEDs
  • motors
  • inks, dyes
  • paints
  • Arduinos
  • glue