A manual for modern making: digital fabrication

Improving learning in design and technology

The initial aim of this project is to bring about significant improvements in the learning experiences of RSA Academies students in design and technology, through the exploitation of the latest thinking, practice, software and hardware from digital fabrication technologies.

In the longer term, the project will also aim to turn the RSA Academies into a nationally acknowledged hub of expertise and innovation in digital fabrication technologies. It will aspire to have a systemic influence on the digital fabrication strategies of many other schools and other learning settings – first across the West Midlands, then nationally. The ultimate aim of this project is to make a significant contribution to a wider goal: to raise the status, quality and relevance of design and technology education for young people in the 21st century.

RSA Academies aims to create a rigorous conceptual framework to underpin this project. The framework and content will evolve throughout the project, helped by the RSA, the RSA Fellows, the Comino network and the wider design, manufacturing and making networks – and of course the schools and young people themselves. This framework would be the basis of a 21st century digital fabrication curriculum, which we have called a Manual of Modern Making. Our hope is that as a “Manual”, it can contain a conceptual curriculum with core learning concepts, and also practical hands on instructional materials to help individual schools and students realise ambitious projects to meet the curriculum.

This project is led by RSA Education and delivered by Black Country Atelier (BCA). BCA works with schools, colleges and universities to inspire and invest in a 21st century digital technology education.

Jing Lu, founder of Black Country Atelier, has written on the RSA website about disruptive technologies in schools advocating for a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths) based design curriculum to recognise the importance of the subject in the curriculum.

Activities in 2014-5 include:

i. Black Country Atelier working with Goldsmiths University to develop baseline assessment framework for this programme and trialling these with the RSA schools

ii. Running a Maths-linked tessellation project at Ipsley CE RSA Academy using 2D digital design and laser cutting. This was run with the Mathematics department and closely integrated with the national curriculum.

iii. Leading a Tatty Devine inspired jewellery design project with RSA Academy in Tipton. An exhibition of the students’ work was displayed at the MAC’s Fashion Futures exhibition in Birmingham.

iv. Supporting and hosting RSA Academy in Tipton’s Real Projects exhibition on Innovators at BCA studios in Birmingham

v. Leading CAD and 3D printing training with RSA Academy in Tipton BTEC engineering students

vi. Establishing the adoption of full digital fabrication course at RSA Academy in Tipton in Key Stage 4

vii. Leading student and teacher training at Whitley Academy in laser cutting, supporting GCSE final year graphic design student coursework through a typography and display project. Watch Lucy Daniels, graphics design teacher at RSA Whitley describe students working with BCA.

viii. Collaborating with the Design and Technology Association (DATA) and You-Invent to bring together teachers, industry and other practitioners at FabLab London.

Schools involved:

RSA Academy

Whitley Academy

Holyhead School

Project details:

Date Started 06 January 2014
Date Finished 31 December 2017
Project Funder Comino Foundation