Personalize Your Educational Experience

Andrea Lucas and Zachary Mehal are high-school  teachers at PA Virtual Charter School, a K-12 public cyber charter school serving students all across Pennsylvania.  Andrea teaches art and Zach teaches chemistry.  You can see their workshop “Making in the Virtual Classroom” on Saturday, October 15, at 2:00 pm.

What made you choose to get involved with Maker Faire Pittsburgh?

Andrea Lucas: I am a huge believer in the cyber model of education and have a desire to move it forward. The Maker Faire is all andrea-pa-cyber-photoabout innovation and we chose this because it is a great opportunity for us to showcase our new ideas and styles of teaching.

Zach Mehal: It’s important to share how we are innovating in the classroom. Once I heard about the opportunity, how could I say no?

What are you interested in/excited about seeing at Maker Faire Pittsburgh?

Zach: Everything! The amount of creativity in one place is amazing, and I’m excited for the robotics and 3D printing demos.

Andrea: I don’t even know what to expect but I’m so excited to see everything I possibly can in the two days we are there.

What is something that people in the Pittsburgh region might not know about PA Virtual?

Andrea: One of the cool things about PA Virtual is that the model is really centered on parent involvement. The teachers, parents, and Family Support Coordinators all support one another to make sure that each child is receiving the best education they can get. The school’s Scholar Program allows students who excel academically to graduate early without jumping through any hoops. I have had students in my classes graduate and head to college at the age of 16.

Zach: Even though we work in a virtual setting, we are still really connected to our students. There are so many opportunities to virtual-classroom-image interact in the virtual classroom and through the social outings in each region (of the state). The outings connect students from an entire region, not just one town or school district.

Andrea: We teach students at every level. I had a student who was a traveling professional concert pianist, and another who was training for the Olympics – their passion doesn’t work with the traditional school model. On the flip side, I have had students with special needs who wouldn’t have been able to graduate without an option like PA Virtual. To see someone with severe physical or mental disabilities be able to express themselves through art is a really beautiful thing.

What is something that people might not know about online education?

Zach: When I first started teaching at PA Virtual, I thought there would be little interaction.  I had the stereotype that students would just sit and stare at their computers, silently clicking away at lessons. I could not have been more wrong! It’s really amazing how the students interact with their peers and teachers.

Andrea: The opportunity to personalize your educational experience is there if you know where to look.There can be a bias against cyber education, and families might not be aware of everything you can do in an online setting.

Zach: Technology isn’t going away and being in a virtual world doesn’t mean that students won’t be able to get the skills they need to be successful. Cyber education prepares students for the next generation – technology is the future. We can prepare them for this, and encourage them to be makers themselves.

PA Virtual Charter School is a tuition- free public cyber school of choice chartered and approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education in 2001. Celebrating 15 years of cyber excellence, PA Virtual serves approximately 2300 students throughout Pennsylvania from Kindergarten through 12th grade. PA Virtual is an award-winning and innovative online school in PA that provides K-12 home-based public education. For more information visit .

See the Faire Schedule

The weekend schedule of hands-on workshops, creative performances, informative panels, inspiring talks and Power Wheels Racing is now available.  See the full schedule here.


See the Faire Map

mf_map_webWe’re so excited to fill the Northside Allegheny Square campus with all kinds of innovation, invention and hands-on fun for Maker Faire Pittsburgh!  We’ll have a race track, Main Stage, Workshop, Drone Zone, Education Zone, food truck section and more than 250 makers dispersed throughout the Faire to amaze and inspire you.  Click on the map to view a larger, downloadable version.

Help Kids Be Active Builders of Knowledge

Here’s our interview with Sunanna Chand, Learning Innovation Strategist with the Remake Learning Council of the Remake Learning Network.  The Network is a professional network of educators and innovators working together to shape the future of teaching and learning in the Greater Pittsburgh Region and a collaborator of Maker Faire Pittsburgh:

Why is Remake Learning involved with Maker Faire Pittsburgh?

Sunanna:  The Remake Learning Network is all about bringing people together to create engaging, relevant learning experiences for kids. Members of the Remake Learning Network think to themselves, “How can we help kids be active builders of knowledge, rather than passive consumers?”

Members of the Remake Learning Network are reimagining what learning looks IMGP1307 smalllike for many reasons, including to “meet kids where they are” and engage them in the learning process in more hands-on, relevant ways. These kinds of hands-on, technology-forward “tinkering” approaches to learning build problem-solving and collaboration “soft” skills, but they also support hard science and math learning. STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers are lucrative and highly in demand in our region.

For all of these reasons, Remake Learning Network members are natural participants in Maker Faire!

Where is making happening throughout the Pittsburgh region?

Sunanna: Learning is often associated with school, but educational experiences happen everywhere. The Remake Learning movement facilitates in- and out-of-school integration, so kids can relate to information in different contexts and apply skills to new scenarios. It is no coincidence that well MAKESHOPSprowls-7.jpgover 100 organizations in the region have adopted creative spaces for students to experience science, engineering, technology, arts, and math (also known as “makerspaces”); they are part of a larger, multi-sector community movement to engage kids through experiential learning.

In addition to those 100 makerspaces, there are also many MIT sanctioned FAB Labs, including two mobile labs housed at the Carnegie Science Center and the Intermediate Unit 1 that travel throughout the region.

How can educators learn more about the maker movement through the Remake Learning Network?

Sunanna:  Learning cannot be remade without exemplary educators leading the charge. With this in mind, Pittsburgh area organizations offer diverse making professional development experiences for teachers. The Children’s Museum’s Mobile MAKESHOP® offers educator workshops including materials and meals. These Maker Educator Boot Camps let teachers engage in open-ended activities that range from sewing to woodworking, electronics to digital-based making and more. Additionally, two years ago the Alleghany Intermediate Unit converted traditional office space into the aptly named transformED, a makerspace solely for teachers that includes devices for digital making. Teachers can explore, tinker, and collaborate in this colorful, dynamic space while learning first hand how to incorporate maker education into their classrooms. School districts are also increasingly collaborating to share best practices. In March 2014, the Elizabeth Forward School District initiated a consortium with five other districts to enrich their experiences in delivering content through creative, digital means. At TechShop, visited by President Obama in June 2014, has 16,000 square feet of workspace for adults – including teachers – to learn together with cutting-edge tools and technology.

And that’s just the beginning. There are at least 19 organizations in the Pittsburgh region that offer maker-based professional development, most of them completely free. Look for a brochure that showcases all of these professional development opportunities at Remake Learning Education Friday!