[Many times the most creative approaches to learning occur in after or out-of-school programs. Three sites for the YMCA in Pittsburgh have tapped into human-centered design to challenge young people to not only “make” items, but to solve problems in their communities. Here’s an article from Remake Learning that highlights a creative use of eTextiles to solve a transportation issue. I have visited two of the sites and observed the kids at work. They tackle the challenges with enthusiasm and creativity.]
Last year, a group of kids in Pittsburgh set about making cycling safer—and more stylish. With a sewing machine and a lesson in circuitry, the pre-teens created a shirt that lights up and changes color depending on how fast you ride your bike.
The young designers were participants in Y-Creator Space (YCS), an afterschool program that serves low-income youth at three Pittsburgh locations. The mission of YCS is to teachhuman-centered design using science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Kids create prototypes and then build products that solve a problem or hurdle that a person or a community faces—thus the “human centered” tag.
At first glance, YCS might appear a lot like other local programs—Assemble or MAKESHOP—that emphasize creativity and hands-on learning. “But we’re different from a makerspace in that we’re very purposeful,” said Nic Jaramillo, YCS director since its start in 2011. At YCS, the goal is less open-ended tinkering and more tangible application of ideas and creativity. The kids are always making something—whether that’s the playful wearable technology or an aquaponics system that encourages healthy eating.