Shaping Innovation Through Play

By Anne Wintroub, Director of Social Innovation, AT&T
Jul 14, 2016 2:45 PM ET

I live in San Francisco, where “making” and “tinkering” has become a rite of passage for kids. Schools, public and independent, are building maker spaces.  Libraries are hosting making workshops.  And every summer, parents go to somewhat absurd lengths to get their kids into the stunningly popular Maker Camps that have popped up across the city.  I know, I’m one of them.  And it’s worth it, my now eight-year-old still remembers proudly the giant crocodile he built two years ago at a Maker Camp, and brags daily that he knows how to use a chop saw.  To him, making equals fun, and first and foremost that’s what it is.  But it’s also deeply empowering for young people, who learn through making to collaborate, evaluate and create.   

Providing students with the freedom to tinker, make and explore is changing education for the better and inspiring interest in STEM careers. The Maker Movement, as celebrated by the White House last month, is gaining traction in the education community – combining traditional play with technology to foster collaborative problem-solving through hands on learning.

This weekend in San Francisco, AT&T is hosting Shape: an AT&T Tech Expo to inspire and celebrate innovation. There will be speakers, tech talks, exhibits, and a hackathon. And there will be a live Maker Camp for more than 500 kids to get hands-on with tech tools. They will experience innovative starter projects like soldering and controlling traffic lights through breadboards.

Through AT&T Aspire, we are working to bring virtual and in-person Maker Camps to kids all across the country. Our $250,000 contribution to Maker Media supports free resources available on the Maker Camp website for teachers, educators and parents. They combine the best parts of summer camp while stoking kids’ creative fires by exploring physics, basic electronics, construction, woodworking, programming, sensors and circuits.  Since 2012, Maker Camp has served over 1 million kids, with hopes to reach 1 million more. Currently, there are already some 600 Maker Camp affiliate locations set for this season, with the goal of 1,000 affiliates helping kids learn to love making.

To ensure the future success of our young people and our workforce, it’s important that we understand the connections between old fashioned play and modern technology. Everyone can make something. By helping students discover their ability to take things apart and put them back together, we’re helping to ensure the possibilities of what they can create are endless. From a giant crocodile, to the next tech sensation.

Follow #ATTShape and #MakerCamp on social media for updates from the expo!