How the SHOP CLASS Act Will Invest in Maker Education, Makerspaces, and Teacher Training

Jul 18, 2017

Originally published on MakerEd.org:

Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, our guest author and a member of the bipartisan Maker Caucus, discusses the  21st Century SHOP CLASS Act and how it will invest in maker education, making, and teacher training.  Here at Maker Ed, we are excited by the fact that maker education continues to gain momentum, and that schools and informal education spaces across the country are using a student-driven, hands-on, experiential approach to learning that engages learners and allows for deep, relevant learning experiences.  

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How the SHOP CLASS Act Will Invest in Maker Education, Makerspaces, and Teacher Training

As we continue to grapple with the challenges of the 21st century, the maker movement — led by creative and innovative inventors and tinkerers — has tapped into a new and rejuvenated American ingenuity that has the enormous potential to reshape our economy from the grassroots up, and move our country forward. I have seen this first-hand — in October 2012, I stood in downtown Youngstown, Ohio and helped cut the ribbon for the nation’s first public-private institute dedicated to additive manufacturing and the promotion of 3D manufacturing. This institute, now known as America Makes, has helped a city whose past was defined by steel mills and the nearby GM assembly plant become a center of the 3D printing and Maker Movement.

Organizations like America Makes offer inspiration for new approaches to both manufacturing and education. Through open-source learning and technologies such as 3D printers, laser cutters, desktop machines, and programs for digital design, these makers are designing new products, starting businesses, and creating new fields of industry. It is our job as members of Congress to give the maker movement the support and resources it needs to continue to flourish, and ensure that our children have the skills and experience necessary to succeed in this bright and exciting future.

The unfortunate reality is that only 16 percent of American high school seniors are proficient in math and are interested in a career in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field. Even among those who do go on to pursue a college major in STEM fields, only about half choose to work in a related career. It is critical for us to do everything in our power to ensure that our students are ready for — and excited about — tomorrow’s STEM-based economy.

Through maker education, we can expose our students to hands-on, project-based learning approaches provided in makerspaces, that encourage students to imagine, create, innovate, and tinker though the processes of manufacturing, testing, and demonstrating. Access to these innovative learning models should not depend on where you grow up or what school you attend. A child in Akron, Ohio or Gary, Indiana should have the same opportunity and access to these technological advances and curriculum as a child in Silicon Valley or New York City. That is why, with the help of the bipartisan Congressional Maker Caucus, I have introduced the 21st Century SHOP CLASS Act. This bill would define maker education and makerspaces and amend the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act to allow funding for maker education, the creation of makerspaces, and teacher training in hands-on approaches to learning.

My legislation will help advance maker education and makerspaces, but in reality, this is only the first step of a longer journey. We need to start making learning fun again. Bringing creativity, ingenuity, and innovation back into the classroom can do just that. I believe every school in this country should have a makerspace where students have the opportunity to create, innovate, and hone the skills necessary for our evolving economy. As Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Let’s come together and give our children the opportunity and tools to solve tomorrow’s problems with the creativity and ingenuity of the future.