“Maker Schools”: A Way to Bridge the Skills Gap?

An article from Wired pointed to a recent phenomenon of classes and schools that teach “maker skills” – hands-on, DIY skills geared toward 9-5 desk jockey-types who are great with, say, a Power Point presentation, but maybe not so much at the skills necessary to make tangible objects.

The schools and programs teach everything from quilting to welding to plasma laser cutting. They’re popping up in major metropolitan areas and small towns alike. And they’re not just in the U.S. – you can find them all over the world.

So it begs the question … is this the beginning of a revolution, where herds of office drones trade their Aeron chairs for welder’s helmets, or a career as a CNC machinist?  It’s too early to say. But as the trend toward DIY takes root — manifesting itself in everything from backyard vegetable gardens to garage-housed 3-D printers — it’s possible that more than a few folks are eager to spend their days getting their hands on something other than a mouse and keyboard.

If nothing else, it appears to be a fantastic opportunity to educate a segment of the population who otherwise would not be aware of the technical know-how necessary for today’s manufacturing industry. It might not be the magic bullet that closes the skills gap, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

"Young Minds at Work" at Lockheed Martin

Students Explore Science and Space Applications

April 28, 2011 Press Release: 

"Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] Space Systems Company campuses across the nation today opened their doors to over 3,200 children aged six to 18 years to introduce them to the wonders of science, physics and mathematics in the space industry through its annual event “Young Minds at Work” day. The event inspires children to consider science, technology, engineering and mathematics education by demonstrating applications in our everyday life.

“Inspiring our youth to explore the world around them is not just important to our company but to the global economy,” said Joanne Maguire, executive vice president for Space Systems Company. “Children exploring science, technology, engineering and math today will be our leaders of tomorrow, innovating for a better and healthier planet. Young Minds at Work is one way Lockheed Martin invests in our children by tapping their natural curiosities and problem solving skills.”

Some of the activities they participated in were:

Practicing docking a spacecraft
Flying an airplane in a simulator
Launching water bottle rockets

Wish there was a program like this when I was in school!!

To see the full story:  Lockheed Martin



The first global online science competition

Get your budding scientist ready - the first global online science competition is on! Google Science Fair is open to full-time students ages 13 to 18. My oldest isn't old enough yet, but I am so excited for all the innovative kids out there that get to do this.

The Pentagon - in a battle with Microsoft

The Pentagon is vowing to do battle against an enemy that one top U.S. Marines official says “makes us stupid.” So just who is this formidable enemy? None other than Microsoft PowerPoint.

A story in the April 26 edition of the New York Times points to a slide, widely circulated on the Internet, meant to portray the complexity of U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan. Complex, it was. But it also showed what can happen when use of such a business tool spirals out of control.

Microsoft’s ubiquitous presentation software is something the business world has both loved and loathed ever since a Mac-based program named “Presenter” was re-christened as PowerPoint in 1987. Darkened board rooms have never been the same.

Many a conference and meeting attendee has sat through his or her share of badly executed PowerPoint presentations. Blocks of indecipherable grey text. Colors and fonts more appropriate for a bag of Easter candy. Goofy animation and silly sound effects. And the overall theme that ties it all together: Lack of a clear message.

If your company makes a lot of these presentations — especially to your customers and clients — it’s worth taking a long, hard look at what you’re putting out there. This isn’t to say you need to hire a design firm to handle your slides (though having someone on your staff with better-than-average knowledge certainly helps). But you need to ask yourself if you’re using PowerPoint to enhance presentations, or if you’re using it as a crutch.

If you’re ready to raise your PowerPoint game, there is a wealth of resources online. A simple Google search for “effective PowerPoint presentations” yields nearly 3 million hits. Online tutorial sites such as also offer informative sessions on PowerPoint-related topics.

But don’t expect those eye-glazing presentations to go away anytime soon. Though perhaps the military will examine a different approach to eliminating the blight.

“If we really want to accomplish something we shouldn’t be teaching our allies how to use PowerPoint,” Duke University military expert Peter Feaver told ZDNet. “We should give it to the Iraqis. We’d never have to worry about them again.”

What's Progress Mean?

Modern art usually pushes the bounds of what is in the next step of society. Warhol, O’Keefe, and Picasso all pushed the boundaries of art in their time. A good place to find our culture’s next generation of art is in New York’s Guggenheim Museum.

A conceptual artist, Tino Sehgal is currently “showing” his work entitled “This Progress”. I discovered the work this weekend while listening to Studio 360 on NPR. There are no canvases in Sehgals work. There are no paint strokes or molded clay. As visitors to the museum enter the exhibit, which is simply the entire space of the museum, they are met by a child. The child, no more than 12 years old, asks the visitor if they would like to participate in the art. When someone responds, “yes,” the child then asks, “What is progress?”

You’ll have to listen to the recording on Studio 360 to hear some of the interesting answered provided by guests. The exhibition continues as the child brings the visitor to a teenager and repeats, as best he or she can, the answer provided by visitor. The visitor continues this same journey with the teenager, then a young adult. Finally they are brought to a senior citizen – with the same question in the air “What is progress?”

Personally, I consider myself a fan of tangible art – if only because I haven’t thought of another kind of art. But the idea of providing this artistic experience to museum visitors is fascinating and, at least, conceptually, quite provocative. There is no wrong answer from what I can tell. The experience is in no way recorded, digitally or through written transcript. But I have no doubt that the thorough challenge of addressing, “What is progress?” through the interpretation of four strangers of varying generations will alter the how the conversation unfolds.

So what is progress to you? What does it mean? How does it effect you?

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