DIY.org is the blended learning version of the maker faire. This site offers project ideas, tutorial videos, challenges and contests to encourage and support all students to become “makers” on their own time and on their own terms, following their own passions. Kids under the age of 18 can sign up for free and join this online maker community. Each member gets a profile, an avatar and completely private and secure user name as well as a digital portfolio in which to collect, store and display all the badges he or she earns while completing the different challenges throughout the site.

DIY.org is the one stop shop for student makers. There are hundreds of challenges available on the site. Student users can work their way through the challenges and earn badges in all types of skills… anywhere from physics, chemistry or geology to dancing, blogging or cooking and basically everything in between. They can try a bunch of challenges or they can focus in and master one particular skill.

Just pick a skill. Students work through a number of the challenges that fall under that skill, then upload the evidence, whether it be a photo or video, of the completion of that challenge into their digital portfolio and finally earn the digital badge. Not only does the portfolio contain the badges, but it also is the perfect place to archive any and all digital evidence the student creates while mastering the skills. Thinking as a parent or a teacher, these portfolios will be excellent resources for students writing applications to high school, college or internship programs.

Keeps students engaged and motivated. DIY.org provides a safe, monitored online community through which like minded students can connect. One of the first challenges is to create a 15 second video introducing yourself that can be posted to the rest of the DIY.org community. Other members can like, share and follow the students who share the same interests and goals. Projects are categorized and hashtagged so when using the “Explore” feature it is very easy to find other kindred members to connect with online. There’s even a free mobile app so students can easily share the photos and videos they create on their phones or tablets.

But like every successful social network, it does not need to end there.

Local DIY clubs. Ben Jones, here in Portland, OR tapped into DIY.org this past spring and recognized the power this site held when it’s paired with an actual physical DIY.org club. As former Cub Scout leader, Ben had already witnessed the magic of getting kids together to collaborate and “make.” But unlike other organizations, the DIY club sole focus was on the projects- the creating and hands on learning- which is exactly what Ben wants to  provide the students who join the PDXDIY club.

Portland is ideal. It is a perfect city to initiate one of the first big city wide DIY.org maker clubs because Portland values craftsmanship as a whole and has cultivated a rich maker culture in general with it’s industry and local small businesses. The DIY club has already had volunteers come from Xerox create their own version of robotic engineering. Unlike the branded kits that can cost hundreds of dollars, the PDXDIY.org event cost less than $30 per student and every participant received mentorship from working engineers who could offer insight and guidance no manual could ever provide.

The Portland Chapter, PDXDIY.org. Instead of establishing one specific “maker space” Ben is connecting students to the endless “maker spaces” that already exist all over the city.  For the first event, he partnered with a local bike shop that provided the space and supplies for an entire Saturday afternoon where kids could come and earn their entire “Bike Mechanic” badge in just a few hours. Through this route, kids can choose to join the online community or simply participate in person only- for which Ben has actual stickers to award anyone completing the challenges of the day.

photo 1Ben Jones and the Portland DIY club are figuring out what a thriving group can truly look like. DIY makes it so easy to start one in your own neighborhood. Sign up and you will find the 13 challenges it takes to master being a DIY member. They also provide all the release forms needed, special group challenges, a calendar of Group Leader Hangouts to connect and collaborate with other group leaders, and technical support for creating a group website and digital communication channels.

A DIY.org club lets students “make” in real world locations. Local clubs bring the challenges to life in the context students can really learn the most when completing the challenges. Ben Jones has filled up the calendar and students from anywhere in the Portland area are able to come together at unique locations and create/master skills that are really never mentioned in a traditional school curriculum… mechanics, forestry, farming, beekeeping -just to name a very few! DIY.org provides the jumping off point, the direction, the organization but does not at all limit the possibilities of a local DIY club.

 

DIY.org is a portfolio company of Learn Capital where Tom Vander Ark is a partner.

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