By Staff Writers Anagha Mandayam & Shreya Sridhar
The City of Fremont has partnered with FUSE Corps, a national nonprofit organization that works with local government to address challenges in urban communities. In order to address the challenges, FUSE Corps assigns a “fellow” to work with a city’s government to improve a certain aspect of the city. Fellow Parker Thomas was assigned to work with Fremont to look into the city’s inability to staff manufacturing jobs.
According to Thomas, there are more than 900 manufacturing jobs in Fremont, but not enough people interested in them. His solution is to create a “maker program” education in FUSD schools. In May 2017, the City of Fremont and FUSD have signed a contract with FUSE Corps for $150,000, splitting it evenly in order to host Thomas.
A “maker education” is a type of education that uses a hands-on approach to learn core STEM subjects such as computer science and engineering. This form of education took off in 2005 because of its success in bringing more women into STEM and has since been implemented in many schools across the US. It provides students with workshops, events, new courses, and afterschool programs.
There are several “maker education” programs in the US including ones implemented by Maker Ed, a national organization, which has programs that help both impoverished children and middle school students obtain an education via a hands-on experience. Most “maker education” programs do not offer direct courses that can be taken in schools; however, they do partner with various schools and allow for students to learn at local “makerspaces”, learning centers in which workshops are held. In CA, a program called the California Community College Maker Initiative helps student to get jobs and internships, prepares them for STEM careers, and has several makerspaces. In the Bay Area, there is Maker Ed program in Oakland, but none currently in Fremont — which is what Thomas wants to change.
Thomas said that people in Fremont are “excited about engaging [in maker programs] but don’t know how.”
He hopes to change this and is looking to create a maker program after which students will be prepared for high-manufacturing jobs. A high-manufacturing job is “any manufacturing job that can be profitable in the Bay Area,” said Thomas.
According to Thomas, since Fremont is a high performing STEM district, students involved would need a STEM background to obtain a high-manufacturing job, but would also need to be problem solvers, be able to tackle “real-world” issues, and have an interest to learn.
Thomas noted that Fremont has only a few teachers working to implement maker programs, such as Computer Science Teacher Charlie Brucker, who is organizing a local Make-a-thon. However, according to Thomas, this is inefficient since the maker program is being created solely by the teacher, without the support of high-level Fremont administration.
Thomas wishes to change this during his one-year fellowship, which began in September of 2017. During the first two months of his fellowship, Thomas observed local teacher-based maker programs such as Brucker’s. His next plan of action is to create prototypes for a maker program in Fremont. He will begin by reaching out to schools in Fremont with larger resource gaps and look at necessary factors in order to get a program running at middle and high schools.
Thomas said, “I want to create three prototypes to solve this problem [by the end of my fellowship]. I am currently in the design-thinking phase, and will move onto the brainstorming phase,” which he said will help him in the prototyping phase.
Photo credit Harvey Mudd College Magazine