Maker learning unlocks creativity, curiosity, and career skills through hands-on exploration of real materials.
As a steel town with a legacy as a manufacturing hub, Pittsburgh has long been a place where things are made. Today, that legacy continues as the region has established itself as a hub for the maker movement, a growing international community of DIYers, professionals, hobbyists, and students who use technology, tools, and materials to create new things.
Makers are tinkerers, DIYers, technologists, students, inventors, hackers, artisans, and designers who use tools and materials to create. From nine-year-old Caine Monroy and his now-famous arcade to Mythbusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage to the thousands of people selling their furniture, jewelry, and household goods on Etsy, making activates creativity and handmade production in a world in which people are largely separated from the ways in which everyday objects are made. This global movement has its own magazine, Make, and hundreds of gatherings, called Maker Faires, all around the world each year.
Making isn’t something new, but new and newly-accessible technologies like 3D printers, online forums, and inexpensive arduino kits are breaking down barriers to making: many projects that previously required expensive equipment, software, and expertise can now be done in a classroom or home with a few hundreds dollars and a little gumption. And as the community has grown and makerspaces and Maker Faires have popped up in communities all over the world, makers have emerged from their isolated basements and garages to share approaches, spark new ideas, and collaborate on projects that result in new and innovative solutions to today’s problems.
The hands-on problem solving and interdisciplinary skills involved in making add up to powerful learning opportunities for young people. In and out of schools, young makers combine physical and digital skills from science and engineering, technology and media, crafting, and the arts to learn how to work together to solve problems. Maker learning is about developing the curiosity to explore new ideas and the confidence to tackle difficult challenges, all while learning to use tools and materials to make (and re-make) the world around you.
For students who catch the maker bug, these interdisciplinary, hands-on approaches to learning provide opportunities to explore interests, make academic progress, and level-up skills that can lead to careers.
Quaker Valley School District has incorporated Harvard’s Project Zero to create a culture of thinking and making
The Maker’s Place gives kids a place to explore entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, art, and math
The Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse encourages learners to explore materials and create new things through reuse
At the Millvale Community Library Summer Maker Bootcamp, young people can spend their summer making and learning
TechShop Pittsburgh is a community-based workshop and prototyping studio where members have access to world-class tools and equipment
The Girls of Steel is an all-girls competitive robotics team based out of Carnegie Mellon University
- Maker Learning Leadership Framework:A framework created by Digital Promise to help school leaders create sustainable maker learning programs
- Maker Ed’s Open Portfolio Project: A common framework for documenting, sharing, and assessing learning through portfolios
- Nation of Makers: A national nonprofit dedicated to supporting makers through advocacy, resources, and community building
- Maker Promise: A campaign to equip more schools with the resources and support they need to provide quality maker learning experiences
- Maker City Book: A practical guide to help leaders understand the Maker movement and its impact
- Agency by Design: A multiyear research initiative at Harvard’s Project Zero investigating maker-centered learning experiences
- Digital Harbor Blueprint: An online toolkit for building your own youth-focused makerspace
- Pittsburgh Maker PD Guide: Our guide to maker professional development across the Pittsburgh region
- Maker Faire Pittsburgh: The Pittsburgh region’s annual celebration of making in all its forms
- Making + Learning: The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh partnered with the Institute for Museum and Library Services to share best practices for making makerspaces
- Making Spaces: A partnership between the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Google, and Maker Ed to help schools sustainably integrate making into the classroom
- Carnegie Science Center Fab Lab: A digital fabrication laboratory for innovation and invention (and its mobile sidekick) at the science museum
- Intermediate 1 Fab Lab: Giving students the tools to go from concept to drawing, models to prototype, and redesign to final product
- Digital Corps Teaching Kits: Giving students the tools to go from concept to drawing, models to prototype, and redesign to final product
- Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse: A non-profit alternative craft store where educators and families can purchase secondhand maker materials of all kinds
Assemble is a community makerspace that advises school districts on practices for bringing maker learning into the classroom
The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh partnered with the IMLS to release a report sharing best practices for makerspaces
BirdBrain Technologies’ Hummingbird robotics kit helps students create working robots using cardboard, sensors, motors, and LED lights
Educators from across the country attend the annual Pittsburgh Fab Institute, a professional development intensive about digital fabrication
The Carnegie Science Center Fab Lab is one of seven fab labs in the region that contribute to the national digital fabrication community
As Pittsburgh’s thriving community of makers grows, the region has emerged as a national leader in Maker education. In schools, homes, museums, churches, libraries, and community centers, all over southwestern Pennsylvania, makerspaces and maker programs help learners make, play, and design using real materials, tools, and processes.
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh region’s concentration of maker learning has informed best practices and national research as maker education catches on across the country and the world.