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When STEM meets show and tell, sparks of innovation and invention fly

Maker Faire: What was the most memorable thing you made in school?
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Project-based and hands-on experiences, sharing, and collaboration puts learning into action for students at “The Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth.”

For many, hands-on experience is the only way to learn.

“I am a good example of hands-on learning,” said Steve Siegel, design engineer in the department of physics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. “I could not understand a lot of things in textbooks, but I get my hands on them, and it would click in my head.”

This idea, rooted deeply in the region’s makers, doers and dreamers, was on full display at Maker Faire Kansas City June 23-24. Thousands gathered for the “Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth,” which showcases invention, creativity and resourcefulness – all with an eye toward the future. The spirit feeds the entrepreneurial mindset, something many feel is essential in education to prepare students for a future transformed by technology.

Incoming freshman at Lee’s Summit High School, Piper Strokes, who attended Maker Faire KC to help showcase the school’s robotics program, said experiential learning is essential. She classifies herself a “visual learner,” which is why the project-based learning utilized with robotics appeals to her. “I need to touch it, feel it, to actually learn about it,” Strokes said.

One aspect of Maker Faire is showcasing how people can learn and collaborate to create. “I love watching all the creativity in action, the problem solving, the sharing with each other,” said Callen Zind, KC Stem Alliance communications manager.

“There is a no amount of satisfaction you can get from working a problem out of context that can compare with a problem that you have brainstormed,” she said. “You see the problem, you work through possible solutions, you try some that work, some that don’t, and when you finally get the thing that makes a solution, that’s a lesson you’re never going to forget.”

“I think it is really important especially for young entrepreneurs to see that making things not only can be fun in and of itself, but can lead to different career paths that they might enjoy,” Mike Landon, an engineer, said. “Without hands-on or project-based learning you’re just teaching facts and not experiences.”