The project’s main objective was to create the online training tool “How To Raise an Inventor” for pupils aged 11-13 (7th grade in most countries), providing pupils with skills in STEAM fields and contribute to the formation of their future career choices. The tools is available in English, Lithuanian, Dutch, Polish, and Latvian. The testing of the tools was facilitated 9 teachers from 3 schools (in Lithuania, Latvia, and the Netherlands) with their 152 pupils in either the classroom environment or as an extracurricular activity during the 2018/2019 school year. Among the specific objective was to evaluate the tool’s effectiveness, improve teachers’ knowledge of STEAM subjects and methodological skills, and to disseminate the project’s results to a wide audience in partner countries and beyond. The training tool is available online for interested parties (teachers, pupils, other stakeholders) and can be easily adapted to different schools, given that the hardware used is affordable or easy to rent. The necessary software can be obtained free of charge from its developers (downloaded or to be used online). This makes “How to Raise an Inventor” an attractive opportunity for many schools across Europe and beyond for inclusion into the school curriculum or extra-curricular activities. The project ensured that learners’ needs for quality training was satisfied – qualified teachers, up-to-date content, relevant and interesting training materials, and innovative training methods. These are are based on teamwork, cooperation, the principle of ‘learning by doing,’ and an innovative form of knowledge evaluation (makeathon) – where pupils solve a practical task prepared by experts by using various technological tools and knowledge gained during the learning process.
The project’s target group consisted of 152 pupils, of which 29 were from the Netherlands (primary education pupils aged between 11-13); 19 were from Latvia (primary education pupils aged between 12-13, and secondary education pupils aged between 16-18); and, 104 from Lithuania (primary education pupils aged 13-14). Nine teachers of technology, engineering, and primary education from partner schools worked with the students to test the toolkit and provide developers with feedback, of which three were from the Netherlands, four from Lithuania, and two from Latvia. Furthermore, five teachers (1 from the Netherlands, 3 from Lithuania, and 1 from Poland) provided intellectual output as developers/trainers during the staff training activities. Several hundred teachers from outside the partnership learnt about the project’s outcomes during multiplier events and local teacher training activities.
Most of the tasks worked towards adding an interdisciplinary dimension to the field of engineering, with the training material "How to Raise an Inventor" having integrated physics, engineering, programming, biology, mathematics, robotics, and arts. Technical education was linked to entrepreneurship training, as seen in the module ‘How to Make Ideas’ and ‘How Travel Cultivates Learners’, which shows students how to turn technological solutions into business solutions. The training content was based on the formulation of technical problems and their solutions through the application of the "Design Thinking" methodology, which is an advanced methodology for producing innovation that brings together skills in creative, critical, and interdisciplinary thinking, as well as teamwork and cooperation. Other innovative methods, like gamification, were also applied. The module "How to make Ideas and How They Travel" developed user-value orientation and design/creative thinking skills. Children were given the opportunity to practice mind-mapping, brainstorming, evolution, random, matrix, and other idea-making methods, and team-building skills to invent and play games that make their ideas travel. As indicated by focus group discussions, pupils developed their technological and creative skills, critical thinking skills, and practised precise work and revision. They also learnt the most from the collaborative process, which was very decisive and educational. Other mentioned competences were concentration, being a team player, reflective thinking, and the fair division of tasks. Students were of the perception that they were quite successful, and the project’s activities gave them the opportunity to further develop their skills – especially those related to technology and planning. The training tool can be successfully used during lessons and as an after-class activity, as tested during the project’s second year.
Throughout the learning process, pupils had to cooperate on hands-on projects, making sure that no team members were left aside; cooperation was also key to the creation of projects during the international ‘makeathon,’ with pupils having been divided into 3 teams. Each group was given a 60x60 cm box, and they were free to choose from different materials and robotics tools such as LEGO robots, micro:bit computers, and 3-D printing. Pupils, assisted by their teachers, did their best to build a model that was not only functioning, but which was also amusing to watch and well designed. Kids had to work in a team, find solutions, and solve problems together, which added to pupils’ cooperation skills. The created models were successfully joined together during the multiplier event and the functioning technological system was an award for all teams for their efforts. Modules were based on the formulation of real-life technical problems, the hands-on application of tools, and problem solving through the application of “Design Thinking” methodology, which brought together skills in creative, critical and interdisciplinary thinking, teamwork and cooperation. The “micro:bit MAKER” module taught students to programme a micro:bit using additional components. Also, micro:bit is one of the easiest and most affordable tools to easily build engaging activities that actually explain the principles of programming and inspire curiosity in electronics and automation. The "Art of Making" module taught complicated mechanisms and programming ideas in a simple and exciting way using robots built with LEGO Mindstorms EV3 sets. Projects included building and programming an automated spirograph, plotter, line follower, and drawing machine, as well as designing and programming a robotic arm model. The "Build Arm Wrestling Robot" module taught CAD design, simulation, and 3-D printing for the easy prototyping of robotic tools. Furthermore, the learning material is available in three different 3-D modelling programmes: SolidWorks Apps for Kids for younger and beginner pupils, and Fusion 360 and SolidWorks for elder pupils. Lessons were introduced through the illustrated characters of a scientist and his team, with pupils learning to create a 3-D object from scratch, test dynamic loads in 3-D space, think of structures from the perspective of strength, and, learn about components and processes involved in 3-D printing. Pupils obtained knowledge of the principles of physics such as static and dynamic loads, materials, mass, and acceleration, with the Apps for Kids course having an extension that uses the Design Thinking methodology. The training material offered a challenge of converting learnt lessons into self-made projects, while stimulating creativity in combination with computer technology. The 3-D course was exceptional in engaging students’ curiosity of how objects break down, which taught them how to build stronger items. Most practical projects combined engineering skills with art, which provided students with the opportunity to further develop their creative skills.
A welcoming approach by schools with regard to the learning of new content was a large reason for the project’s success. Both the Lithuanian and Dutch schools even included produced lesson materials into the curriculum, which gave all target group pupils an opportunity to acquire new skills. This would not have been possible without the support of school authorities and the involvement of teachers of different subjects. Also, as the training tool came with 4 modules, teacher cooperation was needed to cover all topics. An important factor was that some schools already had the necessary innovative technological tools for the project, while others used Erasmus+ support to obtain equipment, while bearing 25% of the costs from their own funds. The partnership consisted of business entities (knowledge providers) and schools. On the one hand, expert knowledge and experience in particular technological tools (Lego Mindstorms, micro:bit, 3-D modelling software and hardware) contributed to developing innovative learning materials, while on the other, the participation of schools in the development, piloting, and evaluation of produced materials ensured the relevance of training tools to learners’ actual needs. The learning materials of the training tool are online and suitable for self-study as well as for guided learning, making them easy to use not only in the classroom, but also for digital learning.
Teachers played a major role in this project, as their skills, confidence, motivation, and interest provided the optimal background for the introduction of innovative content into the classroom. To develop teachers’ skills, partners organised a learning event in Lithuania, where training with lesson materials was given. During the intellectual output testing phase, teachers were involved in regular team meetings to provide feedback and to assist each other in delivering lessons to pupils. An example of teacher cooperation and peer learning was seen in the Dutch primary school, where the teacher’s assistant, (also a graduate of innovation studies and familiar with technological tools) assisted primary teachers and pupils with technologies such as micro:bit, Lego Mindstorms and 3-D.
The biggest positive impact in the partnership occurred in partner schools; in Latvia, technological training has become compulsory from 2020 as per state regulations. The project has therefore helped the partner school from Riga to be fully prepared for this development. At the Lithuanian school, the training tool helped enhance the content of engineering lessons through the use of new technological tools. At the Dutch school, this project was their first encounter with STEAM teaching, with the school continuing to learn from the project’s lesson materials within the framework of their curriculum. The research prepared by partners evaluated pupils’ skills and attitudes towards STEAM, and showed that most pupils scored their long-term interest in STEAM at 3 out of 5, with the distribution being slightly skewed towards choosing a career in STEAM. However, based on self-evaluation, pupils’ general STEAM skills and interest in STEAM did not indicate an increase; this may be due to the fact that pupils were learning things that are generally difficult. However, the survey clearly indicated that pupils thought that their knowledge and skills in relation to project modules have improved. Through partners’ dissemination activities, teachers were not only informed, but also received practical training (in Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, and the Netherlands), with registered intellectual output users also involving teachers from Italy, Portugal, New Zealand, Slovenia, Germany, and the UK. The Latvian school handed the project’s outcomes to partner schools in Poland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Slovakia, Sweden, Estonia, and Iceland. In Lithuania, it also reached librarians who actively implemented non-formal activities for the community, thus acting as learning centres. The total number of individuals reached by live video feed was 200, with 12 trained during our courses.
- Project locations
- Project category
- Primary education
- Project year
Fundacja Edukacyjne Centrum Doskonalenia
Kauno technologijos universiteto inzinerijos licejus
Rigas Valsts 2. gimnazija
Signum KC De Haren