Athens Partnership Shares Maker Learning Culture with Europe’s Digital Chiefs

The digital leaders of nine European cities created miniature encryption machines during an afternoon workshop this month at the Athens Municipal Maker Space, at a meeting convened by the Athens Chief Digital Officer.

The workshop was a central part of the European chapter of the Global City Chief Information Officers (CGCC) quarterly meeting and hosted by Athens CDO Konstantinos Champidis. It included representatives from Barcelona, the Hague, Helsinki, London, Milan, Tallinn, Vienna and Zurich. The challenge was aimed at building collaboration and problem-solving skills, while showcasing the value of the fab lab’s state-of-the-art technology.

CDOs at the Maker Space

European city digital leaders teamed up with the Athens Maker Space team to design, program and assemble the Eureka Box, drawing inspiration from the Enigma Machine which led to the development of the first electronic computer during World War II.

“We are trying to get digitalization, creation, innovation into the public school system and we are looking at different ways to do this,” said Marijn Franje, CIO of the Hague and founder of the European chapter of the CGCC. “I think this is a very interesting model to bring back home and try to copy it.”

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Athens CDO and meeting host, Konstantinos Champidis (right) discusses with TUC-TIE Lab Director Konstantinos Oungrinis (center), Athens Partnership Executive Director Alexandros Kambouroglou (left) how a multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach can enhance problem solving abilities.

The Maker Space, the first municipal space of its kind in Greece, is part of the Designed for Better Learning program, which has transformed the environment and educational experience in five percent of Athens public schools. The program employs participatory design, involving architects working hand-in-hand with students, teachers and parents.

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Testing the gears of the Eureka Box.

“Meeting here has been an opportunity for Athens to showcase its amazing journey of digital transformation over the last 3 years, and I was really impressed coming to the Maker Space to see what a world-class facility has been created and how open it is to the public,” said Theo Blackwell, London Chief Digital Officer.

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Clockwise from right: TUC-TIE Lab Director Konstantinos Oungrinis, Theo Blackwell, London CDO, and Marijn Franje, CIOr of the Hague

Launched by the Athens Partnership and run in partnership with the Technical University of Crete’s Transformable Intelligent Environments Lab, the Maker Space brings applied technology and design thinking to public school education. To date it has impacted the lives of 7,400 children and introduced innovative, interdisciplinary techniques to 167 teachers. The Maker Space was first launched in 2016 with support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and is now funded through the City’s budget. It is also included in the City’s 2018 Digital Roadmap, a blueprint guiding Athens’ digital strategy and aim to become a premiere digital city.

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Michael Hagler, representing the City of Vienna, works with Dionysia Daskalaki from the Maker Space team to assemble the box's circuits.

“Cities offer services and now technology is part of the public services delivered in Athens,” said Akis Georgakopoulos, a production and management engineer and member of the research team at the Maker Space. “Maker culture debunked the idea that technology is this exclusive thing some people use. Through this program we have opened tech up and made its use and application accessible to everyone.”