When Declan Cassidy approached Clearleft last year with a view to us supporting MakerClub, I was immediately hooked.

Richard Rutter
Richard Rutter
2nd February 2018

The Maker movement is something we’re very familiar with and aligned to - there’s nothing we like more than feeding our curiosity by tinkering around with technology. MakerClub opens up that world of play and innovation to young people. We jumped at the chance to support their BrightSparks scheme and help kids from underprivileged backgrounds get access to all the great learning and technology resources that MakerClub provides.

Earlier this week, Declan dropped by to share the latest news on MakerClub and to let us know what’s in the pipeline for this wonderful venture. Afterwards, he put pen to paper and answered a couple of interview questions, so we could spread the message beyond the four walls of the Clearleft studio!

Image courtesy of MakerClub. Photography: Chris Quigley.

Tell us about MakerClub and why it’s such an important project

DC: MakerClub was created to help encourage young people to become curious, lifelong learners. Our weekly clubs are based in ‘makerspaces’ across the UK - these are places that have access to advanced manufacturing equipment like laser cutters, 3D printers, craft materials and all kinds of cool electronics!

Children use this equipment to develop their invention and design skills through hands-on workshops and real-life briefs that use hardware and digital learning tools that we have developed in-house, to provide a rich discovery experience that allows them to creatively invent solutions to the challenges they face around them. We currently work with 300+ children a week, but hope to ramp this up as we move to scale in 2018, aiming by 2020 to be accessible throughout primary schools and local libraries.

Whether it’s a pollution detector, Internet of Things alarm systems for keeping bedrooms secure, or a robot just to keep a child company, it all starts with a young person’s imagination. We have worked for 4 years with educators and technologists to create a loose curriculum online learning environment that allows a child to create their own educational pathway attuned to their individual passions, while at the same time ensuring they get to grips with key creative technology skills like coding, 3D design and basic manufacturing.

According to the World Economic Skills Forum and NESTA, by 2030, skills like creativity, critical analysis and collaborative problem solving will be highly desirable by employers, especially given the current trend to automation and robotics in the workplace. This kind of learning ensures that young people develop the skills need to secure future work in a rapidly shifting market.

This kind of learning isn’t really available in schools due to restrictions in the curriculum and a lack of confidence in teaching STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math). Over the next 12 months we will be rolling out a trial in every Primary school in Brighton, providing them all with the tools and equipment to run MakerClubs for free - we hope to then roll this out across the UK.

Image courtesy of MakerClub. Photography: Chris Quigley.

Why partner with Clearleft?

DC: Clearleft has always been a company that has led the charge for creativity, and we share many of the same values. The company has previously supported the local MakerFaire and run its own maker workshops for young people at its HQ - a partnership between us seemed like a brilliant fit.

So far, Clearleft has supported our BrightSparks programme, which works with schools to get children on free school meals access to MakerClub and provide them with a free laptop. Clearleft staff are also planning on volunteering in our local space, as well as providing some high-level support on the future design of our learning platform.

Image courtesy of MakerClub. Photography: Chris Quigley.

How can people get involved?

DC: To make the change we’re looking to affect, we need parents that care, teachers that want to facilitate this kind of learning and more companies like Clearleft to help support the next generation of makers and creatives.

If you believe that young people should be given the right skills to thrive in the 21st Century, no matter their background, please get in touch to join us on this exciting journey to transform education.

Contact Declan at makerclub.org

How are you supporting grassroots education and innovation projects in tech? We’d love to hear from you - tweet us @clearleft.