These days, you’d think the idea that learning can happen outside of classrooms would be something entirely unremarkable. In an age of interactive media, ubiquitous smartphones and Wikipedia, knowledge is within reach anywhere and at any time. But there’s more to learning than simply finding out information. It’s not just about reading texts, looking up facts or correctly answering questions.

When information is everywhere, different kinds of learning become more important. The skills of creative thinking and making, and an understanding of technology and scientific principles are among the most critical things for young people to learn in order to prepare them for a rapidly changing future. It allows them not only to thrive in an environment of connected objects, instant communication and automated systems - but also to shape that environment and come up with solutions to the grand challenges that will face them as the world changes.

STEAM - the combination of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (rather than simply STEM) creates new types of learners prepared for a world that requires collaboration, problem solving, teamwork, confidence, an entrepreneurial mindset, presentation skills and lateral thinking.

The good news is that this kind of learning can also be a lot of fun. Putting creativity at the centre of innovation is at the heart of our #MTFSparks events - teen music hack labs.

At Wallifornia Music Tech at Les Ardentes Festival in Liège last week, we gathered 14 young people (9 girls and 5 boys) aged between 12 and 16 and spent the day with them building handmade musical instruments, software and devices.

The creations were showcased on stage in a performance that had the students take on the role of aliens from other planets where instruments and sounds differ radically from each other, but through musical collaboration, a common ground could be found and they could combine in a single performance that brought them all together.

The Sparks were coached in their building and performing by Tom Fox (instrument building), Helen Steer (maker education), Alexandra Antonopoulou (narrative design) and Stefano Piermatteo (creative development).

Thanks to Gérôme, Greg and Alice from Wallifornia Music Tech, the organisers of Les Ardentes Festival and the whole MTF team for working with our fantastic coaches to make this #MTFSparks event possible.