Maintaining Motivation in an Unstable Environment.

How a MakerED project can help with a problem and give the user the tools necessary to keep solving problems.

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One of the key components to student motivation is regularity and familiarity. Students know what is expected of them and more importantly how to do it.

What happens when a global situation takes away that familiarity and regularity and then adds in a large number of new constraints?

COVID-19 image courtesy of the CDC (source).

Those same students need to change too; this is one way to achieve that change.

What follows is a methodology based on the Gradual Immersion Method, created by Jorge Sanabria, which aims to take a group of students and have the collaboratively solve a problem. They are tasked with designing a Maker physical product that will diminish or solve their chosen challenge.

What is MakerEd?

Maker education offers a transformational approach to teaching and learning that attends to the real and relevant needs of learners and humans.

In essence, it is solving a challenge by building a functional, physical, item. It could be robotic and computer based, or purely physical and mechanical. The challenges range from a device that waters plants according to their needs, to a box that displays motivational and aspirational messages.

So, what does that look like?

To illustrate the methodology simply, let’s take a look at a real world implementation of this activity.

In this activity the chosen group was tasked with coming up with a solution to aide in the maintenance of mental health, particularly during a global pandemic which not only has isolated many students, but has removed a lot of external pressure and support resulting in diminished motivation.

Module 1 (Step One): Familiarize

Module one was all about brainstorming. Through the use of Zoom, WhatsApp, and Miro the students were able to meet, visually interact, and narrow the scope of the problem. They were able to discuss possible solutions, methods to implement those solutions, and their hypothetical results.

Module 2: CoCreate

In module two, ideas began to take shape. The first phase of this module was to find products within the scope of the defined challenge to draw inspiration and look for market gaps. Here was important to narrow down ideas and for individual students to choose their own product. The following step was for students to sketch, with emphasis on hand drawing, a rough outline of their product and its functionality.

A Gamified TODO List

Module two continued to build on the ideas and sketching phase with the next requirement, a 3D digital model. For this the professor suggested the web application TinkerCAD to quickly and easily develop a 3D model. This step helped solidify the idea as an actual product, allowing students to critique their own design dimensions, aesthetic, and functionality.

The finally of module two was the task to construct a rapid prototype of the chosen product. Students were encouraged to use recycled or upcycled materials wherever possible. This final stage allowed students to physically interact with their prototype and further refine its design as needed. This step, as with all others, was accompanied by useful tutorial videos which served as encouraging introductions to the world of rapid prototyping. While functionality of circuitry and mechanical elements were not required, the insight gained from holding a physical prototype served as great motivation.

The final module of this exercise was comprised of a final session of research and refinement as the students were tasked with creating an informative promotional poster for their products. This poster needed to be refined while also engaging to the target community. It offered an opportunity for students to truly showcase and explain their product ideas.

Not only was the exercise meant to further refine the scope and goal of the project, but offer a segue into what the next step would be in a real production situation; generating interest. A valuable skill to learn and hone.

The culmination of this exercise was the creation of a reacher/scientific presentation poster. In this students were tasked with highlighting what the task accomplished and how. Stepping back from the product and instead focusing on the methodology involved. What happened at each stage, and why? Having students ask and answer these questions opens them to critically examining their actions which creates the potential to reuse this methodology for further creative endeavors.


Kostoska, H. (2017). Causality of Factors Reducing Competitiveness. Balkan and Near Eastern Journal of Social Sciences, 3, 109–127.

Sanabria, J. C., & Arámburo-Lizárraga, J. (2017). Enhancing 21st Century Skills with AR:Using the Gradual Immersion Method to develop Collaborative Creativity. EURASIA Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, 13(2).

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