Across the country, do-it-yourself artists, inventors and tinkerers are making things, fixing things, and building new things using repurposed materials, old-fashioned tools, and cutting-edge technology. (Remember how Apple computer got its start?) Universities such as MIT and Stanford have started looking at Maker Portfolios that showcase the inventiveness of high school students.
At Riverdale, this culture is thriving.
Junk never looks the same once you've learned how to weld.JOSH MERROWUpper School Art Teacher and STEM Integrator
Students have the opportunity to take a design concept and see it through to reality using 3-D printers and computer-controlled fabrication technology as well as the tradional tools such as drills, saws and wrenches. They have fashioned working bicycles out of junk parts, 3-dimensional objects out of cardboard, and functional furniture out of wood.
On the Hill Campus, a Maker way of thinking is permeating throughout the school. The art building holds classes in sculpture and design engineering where this work naturally occurs, but it also happens in other subjects and in other spaces. A specially-equipped maker cart can bring a workshop to any class, indoors or out, that wants to explore ideas by building. And students are encouraged to develop independent study projects in which they design and build their ideas.
The Maker projects are displayed in high-traffic areas so that the community can experience the thrill of invention. A recent exhibit in the cafeteria/student center displayed "time machines" that students built that measured a 5-minute period of time. Students learned how cultures over the years have figured out ways to keep track of time, then worked out their own solutions using golf ball tracks and mechanical gates, falling water, and valves made of straws actuated by string and pulleys. The exhibit included statements by the students about how the came up with the ideas and designed and built the structures.
Plans are underway to create a new designated Maker Space on the Upper School campus that will be designed to inspire invention and collaboration on a larger scale.
The school's Maker Culture is another facet of the school's commitment to interdisciplinary learning, sustainability, and design thinking. As Merrow says, "it's another way students can learn to keep trying, iterating on their designs, until they work. It teaches them not to give up." It also recognizes the deeply personal rewards that come from those "Eureka" moments when an idea comes to fruition.
Middle School Makers
Students work with their minds, hands, tools and technologies in Riverdale's Maker labs.