O’Reilly Media’s Make division, in partnership with  Otherlab, has received an award from The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in support of its Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach (MENTOR) program. The Team will help advance DARPA’s Mentor program, an initiative aimed at introducing new design tools and collaborative practices of making to high school students.

Makerspace, developed by Dale Dougherty of O’Reilly Media and Dr. Saul Griffith of Otherlab, will integrate online tools for design and collaboration with low-cost options for physical workspaces where students may access educational support to gain practical hands-on experience with new technologies and innovative processes to design and build projects.

The MENTOR effort is part of the DARPA’s Adaptive Vehicle Make program portfolio and is aimed at engaging high school students in a series of collaborative distributed manufacturing and design experiments. The overarching objective of MENTOR is to develop and motivate a next generation cadre of system designers and manufacturing innovators by exposing them to the principles of foundry-style digital manufacturing through modern prize-based design challenges.

The MENTOR contract award provides the initial year of funding for what is expected to be a four-year program.  Throughout the program, O’Reilly Media and Otherlab will work to develop both a physical and digital workspace for collaborative design and manufacturing in high schools. Students will have access to sophisticated new tools for digital pattern making that allow them to create complex 3D objects using a variety of manufacturing methods, including low-cost manual or machine techniques. By making the dependency on specialized equipment optional, a broader range of schools may participate in the program, adding these tools later if needed. These tools also embody advanced methods for completing distributed design and manufacturing.

The Makerspace program will also integrate technologies that have been widely adopted by makers such as Arduino, an open-source microcontroller, and 3D printers such as the Makerbot. In addition, the program will adapt kits developed by makers for use in schools.

“I see this effort as an opportunity to extend the Maker movement into schools,” said Dale Dougherty, who founded Make Magazine and Maker Faire. “Through Maker Faire, we’ve seen tremendous interest among young people to engage in making things and this effort helps develop opportunities that can work in a variety of school contexts for a variety of students.” Student projects developed under the Makerspace program will be exhibited at Maker Faire.

As part of the proposal, Dr, Saul Griffith, a MacArthur “genius” fellow, will develop design tools for “digital pattern making” and the sharing of designs and expertise. The goal is to build a social, collaborative platform for students to share their work across schools. “Engineering is perhaps the last field to benefit from the introduction of social tools for collaboration,” explained Dr. Griffith, who is also the co-creator of HowToons, a popular cartoon-based approach to teaching engineering skills. “Makerspace supports the idea that engaging in the process of making is valuable in a very broad sense,” said Griffith. “Making can be viewed as a life skill, and it can establish a lifelong interest in science and technology.”

The Makerspace program begins in the 2012-13 school year. Ten California high schools will be selected to participate in the pilot program. Information about the Makerspace program will be available on makerspace.com.

Otherlab, located in San Francisco, California, is a Clean Tech Do-Tank and developer of next generation algorithmic design tools.

Saul Griffith, Ph.D. is a serial entrepreneur. Saul has founded or cofounded: Squid Labs(Do-Tank Engineering Incubator), Instructables.com (shared open source hardware and instruction), Potenco (human powered energy devices), HOWTOONS.com (science and engineering education and inspiration), Optiopia.com (technical solutions for low cost eye-care), and MakaniPower (High altitude wind / utility scale renewable energy). Of particular relevance to this project was Saul’s involvement at MIT (1999-2004) in founding “Thinkcycle.org,” a platform for distributed engineering collaboration and education focused on developing world engineering challenges that became “DesignThatMatters”. Saul sits on the advisory board for the X-Prize foundation, Duke Energy, Popular Mechanics, Make Magazine, Pfizer, HP Environment council. Saul has taught design engineering at MIT and lectured on design engineering and design tools for engineering and invention at MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, U Arizona, Harvard, and others.

O’Reilly Media, located in Sebastopol, California, is a technical publisher and conference organizer known for its advocacy of Open Source, the Web and the Maker movement.

Dale Dougherty is the founder and publisher of MAKE magazine and the creator of Maker Faire, which leads a growing maker movement. An early Web pioneer, Dale was the developer of Global Network Navigator (GNN), the first commercial Web site launched in 1993 and sold to America Online in 1995. He coined the term Web 2.0 as part of developing the Web 2.0 Conference. Make Magazine started in 2005 followed by the first Maker Faire in the Bay Area in 2006. In 2010, Maker Faire was held in the Bay Area, Detroit and New York City. He was a Lecturer at the UC Berkeley School of Information from 1997 to 2002. He was named a “Champion of Change” in 2011 by The White House.

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11 Responses to DARPA MENTOR Award to Bring Making to Education

  1. MauiJerry says:

    Awesome! I look forward to reading up on this project and following your model.

  2. mooremail22 says:

    Do you already have the High Schools chosen? If not, how can a High School apply?

  3. rbwilliams says:

    I hope to have this in my town by the time my kids are entering the school system

  4. Edward Jiang says:

    Interesting. We’ve been doing a student-run makerspace for students at StudentRND. We’d love to work with O’Reilly and the student makerspaces initiate. You can contact via email or on our site.

  5. MPiccione says:

    As a High School Engineering and Technology Education teacher I love this idea in theory and much of the cheaper technology and machines already exists in many modern day high schools, as it does in mine. Granted it doesn’t have the super expensive equipment like the Makerspace in San Fran has but the remnants of most high school shop programs still exist in many of the buildings, they are just being utilized by other groups of students. One of the largest hurdles to these spaces being utilized in the Maker way is the logistical and insurance nightmares that come with it.
    As a teacher I am responsible for everything that happens in my lab, whether I am present of not. We currently use the lab to run our FIRST robotics team, but the hurdles and hoops we have jumped through for even that, have been too many to list. These programs are hard to support because of the liability issue placed on the school district and on the teacher if something happens. Indemnification paperwork and clauses don’t matter to a good lawyer that feels it’s not his clients fault. In the end the teacher…or school representative would always have to be present while the lab is open, this is what my county made us do (big hassle). Teachers have gotten in trouble for students using tools incorrectly even after student received proper training and signed paperwork stating so. Students will always use tools incorrectly and parents will feel their child is almost never at fault. What is the plan for maintenance and tool replacement due to use and theft? I have at least $1000 a year in just blades and bits and such, not to mention at least 1 machine breaks a year at $500 a pop.
    I would love to have access or even manage a space for the MakerSpace purpose but having the budget, time, and liability managed would be a full time job, not to mention having someone on staff to handle maintenance during open hours would be costly as well. There is a lot more to it than originally thought, I doubt the MS space in San Fran is a profitable enterprise, and in the end almost anything that doesn’t profit, doesn’t last… aside from public education and healthcare.

  6. Tom Pasquini says:

    I’m very excited to read about how this program is growing so quickly. I teach in New Hampshire and am looking to begin converting my school’s STEM team (centered on robotics and engineering competitions) into something more inclusive and accessible. It sounds like the Makerspace project is very much like what I would like to do.
    I happen to have some donated money to begin to make this happen. Do you have plans for the schools that will be in your pilot? If so, would you be willing to share them with me so that I could develop in the same direction and take advantage of the online resources that will be made available as part of the project? I’d be happy to try to make our space an 11th member of the pilot if we have sufficient resources to operate in parallel.

  7. Arjan van der Meij says:

    Is it possible for out school in The Netherlands to participate in this program? We have quite a few courses in which our students are making things (ie Arduino etc.) and we really want to make a makerspace. Eitherway, keep up the good work!

  8. Barry says:

    What a fabulous effort I want to put the San Joaquin County Office of Education’s latest Career Partnership Academy, the “Clean Transportation Technologies Academy” on the list of interested high schools. We are ready to begin and have the perseverance and staff to make this work, and thrive!

  9. Jeannine Huffman says:

    The DaVinci Center at the San Joaquin County of Education in California has been working towards a similar model, and we are every interested in finding out how we could be considered for one of the ten high schools.

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