Maker, Design and Engineering @ MVPS

A PreK-12 Hands On Adventure

The Maker, Design and Engineering (MDE) program at MVPS is about students building new possibilities. Literally. Spanning across Preschool to grade 12, MDE believes hands-on learning means minds-on learning.

Inspiring students with the sense of wonder that comes from asking the question “What if?” and then answering with “Why not?”, the MDE program equips learners for greater exploration of the adjacent possible. Using physical and digital tools to create or remix products, students are empowered as they see their ideas become real. Their sense of agency grows as they create artifacts that make an impact for their users, at a scale that ranges from the individual to the many.

Play, purpose, and passion are the core learning philosophies of the program. Creations can be whimsical amusements, elegant solutions to complicated problems, beautiful expressions of ideas and beliefs, or a mix of them. This trajectory develops a mindset within the learner that recognizes the world as a malleable place, and asks them "How will you shape it?"

What we are making

Flatpack Furniture Design

Inspired by the open community of makers at OpenDesk.cc and intrigued by the possibility of what we might make with our own CNC, Technology, Engineering and Design students are exploring flatpack furniture designs.

Prototyping Colored Shadow Boxes

Third graders build a circuitry project that utilizes the additive properties of colored light to produce amazing visual images with shadows.

Computer Voting Booths for Third Grade

Fourth graders designed, programmed and built computer voting booths to help run the third grade elections.

Kinders Design an iPad Stand

The innovative nature of Kindergarteners is on display as they create an iPad stand to help them make stop motion movies.

Assistive Technology Rounds

Foundational Rounds are agency building projects meant to introduce students to new tools, materials, and habits of making.

Ladder Golf Sets for the PE Department

A request for some backyard games becomes a great opportunity for learning and collaboration with some new tools.

Finalized Colored Shadow Box Prototypes

The third week of a grade-wide project finds third graders completing the construction of the colored shadow box prototypes begun by the previous two classes.

Looking Closely at Cardboard Automata

Before building our own automata, we needed to look closely at some examples first.

Building Cardboard Automata

Hands-on and minds-on learning rule the day as the automata begin being built.

Can Legos Be Used for Automata?

After building various automata with cardboard, students asked a natural next question: What else can we use?

Personalized Plaques

Students design a way to communicate an aspect of themselves to others using a plaque with a customized vinyl sticker.

Making More Ladder Golf Sets for #MVPSchool PE

Another class picks up the MVPS PE Dept work request for ladder golf sets.

Artisan, Tinkerer, Hacker

A group of iDiploma students are wrapping up their first year in the program with three rounds of building in our Hive space. Each round is intentionally designed so that students will learn and use the tools available to them, which will help them build their confidence as a maker. Additionally, the elements they are building are intended to hack the current culture and will serve as concrete examples of how building ideas and products visibly and tangibly can bring people together, convey new information or create a sense of community.

MDE: Power of Play Edition

Technology, Engineering, and Design (TED) course topics change each semester. Fall 2017 was lighthearted with a them of the Power of Play based on Steven Johnson's idea the PLAY is the actual mother of invention.

Visual Design Thinking

Visual Design thinking is a way for us to lean into images as a means to prototype over words on post-its or even physical prototypes. It often requires no more than pen and paper and prototypes can be created very quickly which means more ideas and failing faster which ultimately leads to more creative solutions.

We believe that everyone is a maker. To help scaffold that idea for students, we are working on various pathways - not labels - through which student can engage in cross-disciplinary inquiry, experimentation, and fabrication. Students may view their builds-in-progress through the lenses of:

A maker space might be considered any space with the tools and materials to create - the art studio, the science lab, the writing lab, your kitchen. In that regard, there is nothing much special about a maker space. A maker community, however, requires more. A community includes spaces, identities, and an embedded culture.

Studio(i) on our Founders Campus and Hive on our Glenn Campus are maker-community spaces. Designed to be a flexible creative and creating space, Studio(i) and Hive each feature 3 distinctive work areas: Agency, Joinery, Platform

The workshop space where our community can fabricate their designs with wood tools, CNC machines, laser cutters, and various material choices.

A common space that fosters collaboration, ideation, and assembly

Our digital creation space with access to 3D printers, vinyl cutters, micro electronics, and workstations for CAD, animation software and more.


Cognitive Gearing

Cognitive Gearing - a journey from habits to active thinking - describes the scope and sequence of Maker Design Engineering. The gears represent meta organization for our maker pathways for different age groups - as tinkerers, hackers, or artisans - but do not exclude the others. You can imagine a drive force being applied to the tinkering gear for lower grades, for example, yet because of the gear arrangement opportunities for other pathways come in turn. The four descriptions on the periphery - Fabrication, Craftsmanship, Idea Exchange, and Observation & Judgement - represent what we believe to be the core skills, habits, and methods of making at MVPS.

Program Distinguishing Features


CareCheck includes safety protocol, signage, and a mantra that promotes mutual respect and care for each other, the space, and the tools.

Build Permit

Build Permit is a tool we use to help scaffold students' planning of build projects which include consideration of materials and tools as well as a student defined definition of "done".

MDE: Origin – Parker Visit

Build Permit is a tool we use to help scaffold students' planning of build projects which include consideration of materials and tools as well as a student defined definition of "done".


Discovering your creative identity.

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29th Aug 18

HMW curate a museum that evokes empathy about social justice?

Blog post by Team 3, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School   We start with questions...
17th Apr 18

The Paco Project – A Serendipitous Opportunity

An amazing opportunity came my way thanks to my PLN to engage students in...
7th Mar 18

Using Critique for Formative Assessment and Higher Craftsmanship

Leveling Up Project Craftsmanship with Critique “Craftsmanship means dwelling on a task for a...
20th Feb 18

It’s Not About the Next Step

I wonder if we are asking the right question. “What do you do next?”...
14th Sep 17

Critical Making

BY T.J. Edwards (cross posted on Planting T’s) I owe it all to my...
1st Feb 17

Back to the Future of Making: Development of MakerED Curriculum Documents

By T.J. Edwards About this time last year Jim Tiffin and I were tasked...
15th Nov 16

The Impact Misconception

By Jim Tiffin Jr (Cross-posted on my personal blog, Building Capacity) Look closely at the...
9th Nov 16

Provocations: A Constructionism Methodology

By Jim Tiffin Jr (Cross-posted on my personal blog, Building Capacity) A major component of...
1st Nov 16

Iterative Instruction

By T.J. Edwards (Cross-posted on my personal blog, Planting T’s) Time flies when you are...
8th Oct 16

How WE Work – Strengths-based Leadership

I frequent the “How I Work” tag on lifehacker. Some find the habit odd....
29th Sep 16

pHail: Learning through Persistence

By Jim Tiffin Jr (Cross-posted on my personal blog, Building Capacity) “I have not failed....
8th Sep 16

Maverick Maker

3-2-1-Launch. My syllabus for this semester’s edition of my T.E.D – Technology, Engineering, &...
15th Aug 16

Keeping it Weird

In Ian Leslie’s book Curious, he describes both an old fashioned definition of the...
10th May 16

The Cliff of Every Project

T.J. Edwards and I (Trey) just completed a module for Innovation Diploma called Transformational Design...
25th Apr 16

HIVE Playbook

I get asked about the various tools in the HIVE quite a bit. Some...
7th Apr 16

The Maker Movement has Something for Everyone | Creative Tension

I learned a valuable lesson Thursday during the MVIFI Dine and Design event. I hate...
1st Feb 16

Designing for a Community of Makers

As the HIVE is coming to completion, the work to (re)define the space begins...
25th Jan 16

How to Host a Maker Dine and Design Evening

As part of MVIFI’s hosting work, we’ve created an evening of fellowship and fun...
11th Dec 15


How might we remind our community that we are all makers? How might we...
9th Dec 15

Purpose Based Learning (a #FailUp moment) | Planting T’s

Purpose Based Learning (a #FailUp moment) Posted: October 28, 2015 | Author: TJE | Filed...
4th Nov 15

“When we allow children to experiment, take risks, and play with their own ideas, we give them permission to trust themselves.”
― Sylvia Libow Martinez, Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom

"The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge."
― Seymour Papert

"Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete. They just have to go fix it — often in the face of people who say it’s impossible or are content with the status quo."
― Mark Zuckerberg