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Last February the CTJ Makerspace was invited to participate as part of the facilitators/mentors team of the STEM Tech Camp Brasil 2019, held at PoliSUP, São Paulo. We spent a week sharing experiences and knowledge with an amazing group of educators, empowering them through targeted digital and media literacy training as well as sessions on the maker movement and current education trends.

What’s a STEM Tech Camp?

It is an impactful workshop week, part of a broader two-year program by the U.S. Embassy in Brazil, in close partnership with the Technological Integral Systems Laboratory (LSI-TEC), Polytechnic School of the University of São Paulo (Poli-USP) and the Mais Unidos Group. But why is it important? The 2019 Brazilian edition was carefully planned and executed to make sure it reached its ultimate goal: structure a network of multipliers formed by educators, representatives of the 27 Brazilian State Secretariats of Education and teachers leading important school initiatives in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). And the timing is just right, as Brazil is on the verge of implementing a massive education reform that poses great challenges to all players involved. In this scenario, the 2019 Tech Camp is of high relevance because it motivates collaboration among people with the potential and leadership to articulate and improve existing and new actions aimed at advancing STEM. See the full list of Participants here.

The Camp puts together great players and inspirational leaders who live by what they preach. Dr. Roseli de Deus Lopes from USP and her talk about 21st Century Skills is a call for arms. She backed her speech with relevant data in an insightful tone. The private sector was represented by IBM, Instituto 3M, Microsoft, Qualcomm, and Educando among others. They talked about their educational programs and conveyed a loud message: look for partners near your school, strategize, network, involve the private and civil society in order to significantly make a difference. All in all, the organizing team created the perfect environment for people to connect with ideas and projects, and develop an “I-can-do-it” orientation toward developing a sense of common, shared projects that have great potential to better prepare new generations of educators and students toward a more meaningful and engaging educational system.

Speed Geeking rules

The Camp challenged us, facilitators, to change our perspectives not only by delivering but also experimenting active engagement and active learning. And there is no better way than giving facilitators and participants opportunities to do just that. We had to pitch, convince, and “sell” our sessions against other great presenters. And so many great sessions there were. As presenters, it was a unique opportunity, since we got to feel how the audience responded to our ideas and troubleshoot our own approach to what we were bringing to the conference, trying to better tap into our audience’s needs. Participants were eager to hear what we had to say and asked questions to better understand if our proposal was feasible and adaptable to their own realities. They could choose only three training sessions, so they were excited, energized and EAGER! The experience really showed us that we can inspire and get inspired by new ways of teaching and learning when we engage people differently. Check what happened in this one-of-a-kind active learning experience.

Design Thinking helps every time

Whenever a multidisciplinary group of committed people sits together in a brainstorming session in a collaborative effort to solve a problem they genuinely care about and use Design Thinking framework, magic happens. Participants were separated into groups representing the five regions (Sul, Sudeste, Centro Oeste, Norte, and Nordeste) and asked to talk about the challenges and not be paralyzed by them. They had to find a need and develop an action plan. Having Renata Duarte from IDEO with us maximized our chances of achieving good results because she helped all the groups with their “How Might We…” question – the basis for starting a human-centered plan towards action. The approach was proven correct by the outstanding projects all the regions presented on the last Day.

Maker-Centered Learning in a STEM Tech Camp

Reading popular media, one might mistakenly think that the benefits of maker-centered learning revolve around science, math, engineering, and technology skills. Thus, maker sessions at a STEM Tech Camp are about fostering the maker mindset to introduce active learning in STEM classes, increase student engagement, and have them succeed in STEM. However, research conducted by the Agency by Design Project (AbD) team suggests that a central promise of maker-centered learning is more than the specific academic knowledge (STEM). Project Zero, home of AbD at Harvard, describes the primary benefit of maker in education as the concept of maker empowerment – a kind of disposition characterized by seeing the world (designed objects and systems) as something you can change. Maker empowerment has also to do with understanding oneself as a resourceful person, eager to gather the “just-in-time” knowledge necessary to repurpose and redesign things through making, creating, and engaging in collaborative projects. Maker-centered learning is a cry for action, community building and strengthening networks, so, having a maker empowerment session at the Camp makes a lot of sense. All people involved need to observe, question, and repurpose the way systems work. In order to succeed, they need a trusted community of cross disciplinary professionals, willing to provide insights and support – and the USP team will help them fully. It does not get more maker than that: community, process and environment to improve the way we teach and learn in Brazil.

Evident relatability & Leveraging what we have

On the third day of the Camp, we were all thrilled to learn about some extraordinary educational programs in Brazil. A group of 2018 Stem Tech Campers were invited to tell their success stories, and the impact on 2019 campers was powerful. Learning from the Alumni of the STEM Tech Camp Brasil 2018 was both inspirational and relatable.

We also enjoyed the business Panels and Interaction (Q&A) with Microsoft, Instituto 3M, IBM, Qualcomm, and Educando by Worldfund. There is so much already going on out there, and we should build on the strengths of others and learn together. See the business panels bellow.

Some finalists of Mostra de C&T 13M showcased their phenomenal projects during STEM Tech Camp. Hearing both youth and teachers advocate for their work was very motivating and highlights the need to have more research and hands-on making in basic education. Students talked about the thrill of purposeful learning and making and how the projects impacted their lives. Youth being their own advocates was a current topic at the NY Maker Faire, as MIT Admissions Officer, Chris Peterson shared MIT’s reasons for adding a maker portfolio as one more way applicants could express their ideas. Candidates have to integrate their making with a story of how, why, and for/with whom you make. I could notice that this is just what Instituto 3M Mostra did. Even if not all students will become scientists, being able to justify their project choices is already a good reason for advancing STEM for all students in the public system.

Now that the first workshop week is over, the teams will work in close collaboration with USP and the facilitators. We from CTJ Makerstpace will do our best to contribute to all projects and are eager to see them all succeed and create a wonderful ripple effect.

And we wrap it up with Raul Seixas’ song “Prelúdio”, sung by the participants during their presentation:

“Sonho que se sonha só
É só um sonho que se sonha só
Mas sonho que se sonha junto é realidade”


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