Innovation School – A Unique “Learning By Doing” S.T.E.A.M. Program

What is Innovation School? Innovation School is a STE(A)M program designed to drive hands-on, collaborative learning where projects focus on solving real world problems. Aligned with the maker philosophy of “Learning by doing” the program has been developed to help students and even those continuing education to build a maker mindset.

A maker space thrives around a community of makers who can visit the space to interact with other makers, use the tools at the space and let their creative ideas come to life. But the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic struck a severe blow to maker spaces, and Maker’s Asylum was not spared too.

While we weathered that storm and came out stronger thanks to our #M19Initiative , the pandemic got us thinking about how a maker space could still stay relevant in an increasingly online, virtual future. Before the pandemic, children who attended school physically were limited in the amount of time they could spend online, and would often share a computer with their siblings or parents. But ‘school from home’ during the pandemic changed that forever. Kids now have their own devices and spend a greater part of their time in an online environment. Also, the traditional subjects being taught in school did not prepare them well to excel when they moved to college.

To answer these challenges, we brainstormed a lot and eventually came up with a blueprint that we thought would work in everyone’s favour. Teenage kids who aspire to study further in S.T.E.A.M. disciplines need several skills and practical experiences in subjects that their school curriculum don’t even touch. Topics such as Electronics, CAD and PCB design, Drones and Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR), Software programming and the Internet of Things (IoT) are all subjects that would help them immensely when they transitioned from school to college.

On the other hand, we had amongst our maker community a large number of skilled and experienced makers who would be willing to share their knowledge and impart training to bright, receptive minds. We put the two together, and thus was born our flagship program – the “Innovation School”. From the very beginning, we wanted Innovation School to be a unique experience unlike any school, which is why we refer to our students as “Talents” and our teachers as “Maker Mentors”.

Because of Innovation School’s unique and innovative structure, we are honoured to have UNESCO partner with us in co-certifying this program.

Innovation School by Maker’s Asylum

What Is Innovation School ?

Innovation School has a very fluid, layered structure. In a nutshell, the first part is focused on developing six fundamental technology skills at the intersection of hardware, design and programming. Each skill requires a commitment of 10 hours, totalling up to 60 hours over a six month duration. Scheduling of each session is flexible and training sessions are one-on-one, live and personalized. At the end of six months, the talents complete six facilitated, hands on projects that take them on a deep dive into multiple technologies

The next part is the “Maker Residency”. Talents spend a week at our maker space in Goa on an experiential learning journey – from identifying and defining a problem to finally creating a tangible solution for it. This involves the process of design thinking, frugal innovation and rapid prototyping. Each talent works with select mentors and is supervised by the Maker’s Asylum Team. A functional prototype is the outcome at the end of the residency.

How Does It Work ?

The talents are able to schedule one to one training sessions with their designated mentors. They need to commit three hours for online sessions and two hours for offline practise each week for a duration of six months. Sessions are live and interactive, and we encourage back and forth discussion as the talents progress towards learning their skills. There is absolutely no scope for rote learning in the program. Talents can pace their progress and choose the sequence in which they complete their skill sessions. Talents and Maker Mentors both have access to our dedicated Learning Management System (LMS), which allows them to schedule sessions based on their convenience and availability.

Upon enrolment, we also ship them the “Box of Innovation” which includes all the hardware kits required to learn the various skills over the following six months. The box includes a Drone kit, soldering tools, the Maker Bee electronics kit, FlashBob – the programmable Robot, a DiY virtual reality kit, and an IoT enabled table lamp. These physical hardware kits, coupled with the online mentored training sessions provide a very unique hybrid experience for the talents where they learn online and practise offline.

The Maker Residency

Once the talents have completed all of their skills, they have the option of doing a week long, in-person “Maker Residency” at our physical maker space at the lovely, quaint village of Moira in North Goa. This process starts online with a period of ideation, where they conceptualize a problem statement to solve a specific problem. A group of talents are encouraged to brainstorm their problem statements collectively. This introduces them to team building and collaboration skills, which are essential in the real world. They are able to crystallise their ideas and figure out in advance the skills and hardware parts that they will need to put it together. When they arrive at the Asylum, our mentors and the rest of our team help fine tune their projects to ensure completion within the residency.

Typically, six to ten talents come for the Residency simultaneously, and we usually team them up in groups. The talents are introduced to important and useful techniques such as design thinking, frugal innovation, rapid prototyping, open source hardware, open source software, technical documentation and open source licensing. They also receive additional physical training and mentoring on skills such as wood working, laser cutting, 3D printing and power tools and get to use all of the machines and tools we have at the Asylum. We also schedule online review sessions with super Mentors from across the globe, who listen to their problem statements, and the solution being proposed, and offer constructive feedback, guidance and tips and tricks.

The talents then immerse themselves in the exciting process of physically building their project, using all of the skills they have learned over the previous six months, and the inputs received at the residency. The residency culminates in a project showcase, where the teams do a presentation and live demonstration of their completed project for friends and family.

Innovation School | Maker’s Asylum |

How Do I Begin My Innovation School Journey ?

Your application to the program is the first important step on starting your Innovation School journey. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis any time of the year, but acceptance is based on clearing one or more personal interview session that allows us to ensure that each talent has the right frame of mind, attitude, drive, motivation and aptitude for the program. Once selected , each talent goes through an orientation session that walks them through how the program works, how scheduling on the LMS works and so on. The Maker Residencies are currently being scheduled twice each year, and we time them so that they don’t conflict with school calendars.

We have been thrilled with all the positive feedback we have received from talents as well as their parents on this program. Almost 100 talents have taken the Innovation School program during the current school calendar year (2022 ~ 2023), and we look forward to welcoming many more in the future.

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