Problem Solving


STEM Tech Camp Brasil 2019 Developments

By | 21st Century Skills, English, Escolas Públicas, Formação de Professor, Maker-Centered Learning, Problem Solving, Projetos | No Comments

STEM Tech Camp Brasil 2019 was a powerful experience, and you can read about what CTJ Makerspace staff members consider some of the highlights here. On this post, we share some of the developments that took place after the amazing week we spent at USP learning about tools and techniques to help us solve some of our biggest regional challenges.

The first meeting took place in CTJ Makerspace on February 21st. Among the participants, there were all STEM Tech Campers from the federal district – Maria Zilma (CEMI-GAMA), Fernando Wirthmann (Secretaria of Education-DIEM), and André Luiz de Brito Alves ( IFB-Ceilândia). They brought along other members of the Secretarias of Education and top Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teachers from across the district.

The second meeting took place on March 11th at CTJ Makerspace again, and the group revisited their challenge – Advance STEM education in the federal district by creating a series of public education -, and came up with a very solid plan for 2019.


By April 22nd, we will have two online meetings to inspire and equip the multipliers. The DF team will take advantage of the ecosystem created and invite the following STEM Tech Camp facilitators:

  • Gustavo Pugliese – to talk about STEM education
  • Edson (Instituto Federal SP) - to talk about how he engages his students in sound STEM projects.

Following these two online training initiative, there will be two face to face meeting for the trainers. CTJ Makerspace will demonstrate instructional design best practices on April 15th. And, on April 22nd, we will meet to detail the teacher education course for 50 stellar public school teachers.

The target audience for the training course these multipliers will put together are public teachers who already work with STEM projects in model institutions that are already advancing in the transition to the new educational policy – BNCC. The group’s idea is to work with 50 teachers, have them write a STEM project plan, carry out the activities with students, validade practices, and share the results with other educators by making the documentation available in an CC platform.

Among the benefits of being in these network, we could mention the possibility of getting high quality instructional design training, discussing with experts the best practices and projects to work with students, and becoming part of CTJ Makerspace mentoring program. Teachers will have opportunity to learn with CTJ maker education experts the skills needed to implement their ideas in class. Among our team we have designers, engineers, developers, programmers, and educators who are all very excited to collaborate and help teachers carry out impactful projects with their students, document, and share.

Makerspace & EFL | Unique Learning Experiences

By | 21st Century Skills, English, Maker Movement, Narrativas Incríveis, Problem Solving, Sala de Aula, Testemunhos | No Comments

To solve the many problems we humans are bound to face, we will need to have people who know how to collaborate and efficiently put thoughts and skills to work together to solve challenges. So, it is phenomenal when teachers see their English Teaching practice as malleable and experiment with Maker-Centered Learning [MCL] within their curriculum so as to provide youth with exciting and dynamic learning experiences. Last week, a CTJ teacher, who loves seeing teens thrive and engage in the learning process, brought her group to the school’s makerspace. Her journey underlines some of the real benefits of adopting a framework for Maker Empowerment. What you will read below is Elizabeth Silver‘s testimonial of her class. Enjoy and become part of a growing number of educators willing to experiment and identify the benefits of MCL.


“Want to do something fun and easy with your class? This activity is adaptable to any level and can be done in both the Makerspace and/or the classroom. The challenge is to see how much weight dry spaghetti noodles can support. This idea was inspired by 5B’s Unit 9 – Engineering Wonders.  To take better advantage of the content offered here, I went looking around on the internet for something to construct with my class. I came upon these two sources:

What you need in terms of materials

  • A couple of bags of spaghetti (the cheapies will do)
  • Styrofoam boards – about 3cm thick and 1 meter long (I used one for each group, but you could cut it in half)
  • Box cutters/craft knives/utility knives (whatever you want to call them)
  • Objects to put on top of the dry spaghetti to test the strength
  • Baggage hand scale to weigh objects (I happen to have this, so I made use of it. You could just estimate the weight or even use vocabulary of comparatives and superlatives to talk about the objects).
  • Optional additions are LED lights and batteries, which give the students another level of making/designing. I also had on hand markers, paper, string, toothpicks, and scissors – but NO glue, which would defeat the purpose of the activity.
  • Design Thinking form – the outline for this is on the PPT. I have the students copy it down, do some pre-design thinking on the objectives, materials available, how they plan to execute their idea and their expected outcome. Here is a perfect moment to include the target language. After they do the activity, they revise their forms according to their experiences. Then I have them hand it in for basic corrections and as a way to wrap up their findings, thus leading to a class discussion. I also do this to stimulate critical thinking, reflection, and analysis.
  • Slides

Figuring it out

They were so engaged! They took it upon themselves to divide into groups, got the material (even asking if another Makerspace material was available for use), and spoke only in English (this time I did not have to insist on that); they cooperated, collaborated and shared ideas. The final structures were so different, showing the diversity of thought among the students. The Makerspace staff, who provided support and ideas, readily assisted them.

Developing a sensitivity to design

The result of this experience was beyond expectations. We used the Makerspace, which in itself takes your class to another level – what I like to call a ‘shift’. The idea above is not in and of itself so innovative or technological, but the dynamic that took place with my students was phenomenal.

Learning from tools and from others

At one very cool moment, two  Makerspace staff members brought out a specialized tool for cutting styrofoam and demonstrated how to use it (less mess than a box cutter). The class stood around them watching how it works, and they were in such awe that they literally let out a collective “AAAHHHH!” The word we heard the most from them during it all was “satisfying”. Summing it up, we had fun – smiling, chatting, joking, laughing. It was akin to a social event. They are begging to go back… to be continued.”

Elizabeth Silver is a  CTJ teacher since 2012 
and is always looking for different ways to 
ignite the learning spark in her students.
She uses our makerspace as her sandbox to ideate, 
prototype and even run maker activities with her groups.



CTJ Makerspace at World Water Forum 8 in Brasília

By | 21st Century Skills, Cultural, Escolas Públicas, Eventos, Narrativas Incríveis, Problem Solving, Programas Sociais | No Comments

Invited by Green Nation, Casa Thomas Jefferson Makerspace participated actively in the events held at GN Citizen Village in the 8th World Water Forum. The WWF is the world’s biggest water-related event and is organised by the World Water Council. Its mission is to promote awareness, build political commitment and trigger action on critical water issues at all levels, to facilitate the efficient conservation, protection, development, planning, management and use of water in all its dimensions on an environmentally sustainable basis for the benefit of all life.

This eighth edition was hosted in Brasília from March 18 to March 23, 2018. It is reported that the event brought seventy thousand visitors to the city in the first three days. Around ten thousand of the attendees were specialists who participated in the actual forum, but the majority were students and non-specialists visiting the free Citizen Village. The Forum counted on the support of  Green Nation to host experiential sessions that not only raised awareness but also created a growing movement of people who care to take action and change consumption habits.

At the Green Nation Citizen Village, CTJ Makerspace delivered four sessions that translated research into interactive experiences, appealed to people’s emotions and questioned the way we learn and the reasons we learn content matter. We offered participants two different types of experiences. The first one comprised two prototyping sessions, delivered to public school students and teachers and aimed to help them develop their creative abilities using Arduino. The CTJ Makerspace team and architect/maker/designer Lucas De Sordi helped people to understand the code behind the Arduino project – Thirsty Flamingo. The beauty of this session was that we could see families prototyping and learning together different ways to tackle everyday challenges. In the second experience, comprised two design thinking/prototyping sessions to reduce and/or recycle grey water. In these sessions two groups had the chance to build a proactive mindset as they learned about the tools, the movement of learning together to solve challenges, and the free learning opportunities awaiting them at our American Space.

Convidado pelo Green Nation,  Casa Thomas Jefferson Makerspace teve participação ativa nos eventos que ocorreram em sua Vila Cidadã da oitava edição do Fórum Mundial da Água. O Fórum é o maior evento do mundo sobre temas ligados à água. Sua missão é promover a conscientização, construir compromissos políticos e provocar ações em temas críticos relacionados à água para facilitar a sua conservação, proteção, desenvolvimento, planejamento, gestão e uso eficiente, em todas as dimensões, com base na sustentabilidade ambiental, para o benefício de toda a vida na terra.

A oitava edição do Fórum foi sediada em Brasília entre 18 e 23 de março de 2018. Relatórios indicaram que o evento trouxe 70.000 pessoas para a cidade nos três primeiros dias de conferência. Cerca de 10.000 desses visitantes são especialistas que participaram ativamente do Fórum, mas a maioria do público era de estudantes e não-especialistas que visitaram a Vila Cidadã. O Fórum contou com o apoio do Movimento Green Nation para sediar sessões experimentais que não só promoveram conscientização, mas também criaram um movimento crescente de pessoas que se importam em tomar atitudes para a mudança e mudam seus hábitos de consumo.

Na Vila Cidadã, o CTJ Makerspace realizou 4 sessões que transformaram pesquisas em experiências interativas, com apelo às emoções das pessoas, questionando a forma como aprendemos e as razões para a importância desse aprendizado. Oferecemos aos participantes dois tipos diferentes de experiências. O primeiro consistiu em duas sessões de prototipagem oferecidas a estudantes de escolas públicas e professores, e teve o objetivo de auxiliá-los no desenvolvimento de suas habilidades criativas usando Arduino. A equipe do CTJ Makerspace e o arquiteto/maker/designer Lucas De Sordi ajudaram pessoas a entender a programação do projeto de Arduino – Thirsty Flamingo. A beleza dessa sessão foi que pudemos observar famílias criando protótipos e aprendendo juntas sobre diferentes formas de combater desafios cotidianos. Na segunda experiência, dois grupos tiveram a oportunidade de construir uma mentalidade proativa em sessões de design thinking para reduzir e/ou reaproveitar “água cinzenta” (proveniente de uso doméstico), enquanto aprendiam sobre as ferramentas necessárias, o movimento de aprendizado em conjunto para solucionar desafios, e as oportunidades de aprendizado gratuitas que estão à disposição deles em nosso Espaço Americano.

CTJ - Green Nation Festival - 8º Fórum Mundial da Água


16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence | 2017

By | 21st Century Skills, American Spaces, Empreendedorismo, Narrativas Incríveis, Problem Solving, Programas Sociais | No Comments

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign takes place annually between November 25th (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) and December 10th (Human Rights Day). During this period, governments, civil society organizations, and individuals promote initiatives to raise public awareness of the issue of violence against women and girls. This year’s campaign theme is “From peace in the home to peace in the world: make education safe for all!”.

In close collaboration with the American Embassy, Binational Centers (BNCs) in Brazil started a planning process, seeking to join efforts and have robust programs in the 16 Days Campaign. With this aim in mind, Casa Thomas Jefferson (CTJ) delivered an online Design Thinking session to theBNCs that accepted the Embassy’s invitation. In the session, we revisited the resources provided by the post and discussed how those links and ideas could instill meaningful and interesting programs in each community.

Below are the BNCs that have taken part in the 16 Days Campaign so far:

1.     CTJ

2.     Alumni

3.     ACBEU Salvador

4.     CCBEU Sorocaba

5.     ICBEU Uberaba

6.     ICBEU Belo Horizonte

7.     ACBEU Juiz de Fora

8.     ICBEU Manaus

9.     CCBEU Franca

10.   CCBEU Tupã

11.   ICBEU Patrocinio

12.   CCBEU Guarapuava

13.   IBEU-CE

On December 4th and 7th, 2017, CTJ held a two-day program about entrepreneurship for women who run businesses. We believe that being independent is a key issue for women who suffer domestic abuse, since they often fail to break free from their aggressor because they feel emotionally or financially dependent. As an educational institution, we feel we can contribute in this aspect.  Therefore, we welcomed 20 women who have suffered some kind of domestic violence and are now assisted by the NGO SOROPTIMIST to our Innovation Hub. There, they could connect with new ideas, meet people, find a support group, and use tools that are only available for them at our American Center to help them leverage their business, figure out differentials, reflect upon their audiences, and improve communication channels.

Our two-day program started with an informal exchange of ideas, inspired by Human Library sessions. We had a successful local businesswoman, a representative from the Ministry of Human Rights, and a martial artist sharing their life stories, the challenges they have faced, and how they overcame the struggles life posed to them.

Mariangela, a Capoeira martial artist, talked about self-defense. Jordana, an entrepreneur, talked about how to run a business and differentials. And, finally, Fernanda, from the Ministry of Human Rights and an Education USA alumni, talked about programs the Ministry has on the theme of entrepreneurship.

CTJ would kindly like to thank all the women who devoted their time to inspiring our participants to take charge of their lives and build a better future for themselves and for their children.

Inspiration – Gaining Confidence and Competence

After the Human Library inspiring talks, participants were split in two large groups, and we held concurrent sessions. One group had a session facilitated by our Makerspace staff members, in which participants were exposed to products that are presented well in terms of design. We showed them how simple things like tagging and packaging add value to the products they already make and sell. Participants reflected upon how they could use these ideas to improve their own products, and then used a laser cutter to produce tags for their products. The other session focused on the principles of low cost photography. Participants were given priceless photography tips by specialist Raissa Coe (@raissacoe) and learned how to produce good images to advertise their products in social medias.


On the second day, for the first two hours, participants who had taken the laser workshop tried their hand at photography and vice versa. Then, experts from Pupila (@pupila) held a session aimed at showing participants how to put up an online store on Instagram. This helped them perceive themselves as resourceful individuals who can muster the wherewithal to change their world through making and creating – people who have an I-Can-Do-It attitude.


The day ended with a wonderful talk about mindfulness and caring for each other. Author Beatriz Schwab shared her story and talked about (the) her book – Soco na Alma. She humbly talked about her personal experience with violence in her own home – a story that is depicted in her book and has inspired a soap opera on Globo, a major national TV channel.

Casa Thomas Jefferson’s 16 Day program plan will be shared along with all the other BNCs’ so that other American Spaces can replicate or get inspired by what we have done.  We truly hope that many of the women who participated in our program do feel empowered and come back to our innovation hub for support and learning.

16 Days of Activism