The Maker Lab has been equipped with a range of tools and materials to support making. This includes a 3D printer, sewing and embroidery machines, as well as metal working tools, components for electronics (e.g. Microbit, Raspberry Pi) and arts and crafts materials. Many of these resources are widely available and inexpensive. During January and February 2020, students and researchers from ECS used the space to explore making as an educational tool, which very much included hands-on making sessions. Workshops were led by Alex Hadwen-Bennett, Professor Lulu Healey, Dr Heather King and me and included using soldering equipment, e-textiles, paper craft and crochet.
One source of inspiration for exploring the challenges and opportunities posed by making in the context of STEM Education has been the work of Christine Wertheim and Margaret Wertheim and their crochet coral reef, based at the Institute for Figuring.
Through crocheting coral, a range of STEM themes can be explored, including hyperbolic geometry, evolutionary theory, and oceanic pollution and acidification. During teaching and workshop sessions, students explored crocheting coral and discussed the ways in which this and other forms of making might support more young people to engage with aspects of the natural world. Following the class, several students and staff experimented with their own versions of coral reef organisms (pictured).
Due to social distancing guidelines introduced in the UK in March, some people have turned to craft-focused creative activities during leisure time. Crochet requires simple and widely available tools, a crochet hook and some wool, and for those who are beginners or need a refresher, there are a wide range of tutorial videos to support learning the basic steps. Although crochet coral reefs look complex, they only require a few makers to learn three or four basic stitches and in just a few weeks, the Maker Lab coral reef has already become a colourful feature.
Although our making currently cannot continue in the Maker Lab, staff and students have been able to share their makes via video sessions and have been sharing ideas, feedback and inspiration. When we return to the Maker Lab, we will bring a wealth of examples of our makes from home, from paper modelling and e-textiles to crochet coral as a physical reminder of the value of making as a creative and playful approach to learning and teaching in STEM.