Skip to main content

Algonquin College News

Innovative Program Provides New Opportunities for Indigenous Students

June 11, 2021
When developing a project for over three years, one undoubtably becomes passionate about their efforts. 

This is certainly the case for Nathaniel Parant and Matthew Jerabek who were the team leads to create the Interconnection of Science & Makerspace collaboration project which recently ended its successful first virtual session.  

Parant, a part-time professor, and Activities and Events Representative at the Mamidoeswin Centre, and Jerabek, the Associate Manager, Marketing & Communications, Applied Research, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, collaborated and designed a unique program for Indigenous students. Learners create projects using 3D printing and laser-cutting technologies to explore their culture through the lens of Western science, combining traditional hands-on crafting with digital fabrication tools. 
Parant approached Jerabek to collaborate in The Science of Interconnection course, that would compare and contrast Western science and perspectives of inter-connection from various Indigenous perspectives. “We didn’t want it to be a traditional science course,” said Parant. “We worked with the DARE district and PIE (Pathways through Indigenous Empowerment) for a more wholistic program designed for students who haven’t yet found their passion, who may have struggled in high school and may have needed a little more support.” He added that the program is heavy on communication and math and provides coaching to work one-on-one with students. 

The first virtual session of the course, and fourth year of the program, recently ended with positive results and comments from all involved.  

“The Makerspace team provided guidance and support in adapting remotely to the available technologies of 3D printing and laser-cutting,” said PIE student Sheri Lazore. “They also helped me understand the project and the technology by providing live virtual demonstrations of the technology.”   

The program also created new opportunities for learning. “I think it opened up a whole new futuristic look,” said PIE student Coral Chovjka. “Before I would say, “Oh, that’s something I have seen on the internet, but now I know I have access to it at the College. The project also provided inspiration and motivation.” 

In addition, grant funding provided material assets and allowed for freedom, flexibility and imagination for students to purchase materials to create items without financial constraints and limitations. 

Jerabek explained the class was geared towards practical project-based learning. “The project allowed students to explore new ideas and technologies in a hands-on way while being supported by knowledgeable staff,” he said. “The MakerSpace demonstrated the technologies and provided examples of projects, and ideas to inspire. Ultimately though, it was the students who outlined their own ideas and pursued the implementation of their designs knowing that they had support to overcome any challenges along the way.” 

Goals of the program included; 
•    Further advance learners’ digital production skills, tool literacy and tool proficiency.  
•    a portfolio of demonstrated works 
•    Catalyze Indigenous youth leaders to promote both maker-centered learning and work-inspired-learning experiences in their home communities and in the primary/secondary school system. 
•    Legitimize the viability of integrating maker-centered learning and WIL experiences with respect to vulnerable populations (Indigenous youth). 
•    Demonstrate to higher education institutions that maker-centered learning complemented by WIL experiences represent another pathway to employability for indigenous youth. 
To learn more about the program visit the course page on the PIE webpage.