Growing the makerspace audience

Posted: May 7, 2016 in Uncategorized
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makerspaceSo, I’ve been thinking about the makerspace at my school. I’ve written about it a lot already this school year. Over the summer we moved into a new (to us) space and got fun new machines. As much as I love to go in and make things, I think the intent was really for students to use the space, not just me.

To that end, we in the makerspace have talked a lot about how to get students in the door. Our experience has been that once we get students in, they come back, but we have to get them in first. I am not at all above a little slight-of-hand to make that happen. Nothing really devious, but I will certainly twist some arms, drop what I am doing, and/or try things that may lead to fire. I have lasercut books (sometimes, but not always, fire), orange peels, and chocolate in addition to the regular wood and cardboard.

Some students have reason to come in because their class meets in the room. At the moment, Engineering, Robotics, Java, Digital Fabrication, and Design Fabrication all meet in the space. If this sounds like there must not be much time left, only Engineering and Java are major classes. The others are minor classes so they only meet a few times a rotation (2 meetings in 7 school days). In addition, a few student-led activities meet there. We have an activity period mid day on Wednesdays and Thursdays and a group of students started a design club. I’m not sure what they do, but I think it’s 3D design stuff. Finally, an after-school Science Olympiad group has formed to meet student interest and they have joined the excitement.

One thing that has been a lucky coincidence is that @Mr_Fornaro who is in charge of the space also teaches Statistics, and students come in to get extra help from him. Once they are here, even though they may have come for math help, they get some makerspace demonstration. It’s the freebie that comes with stats help.

We have a few students who are involved in ‘makerships’ which is our markerspace-internship mashup. These students come in twice a rotation both to learn how to use the machines and to work independently. It’s exciting to see these folks engage in all sorts of work. We have a couple of individuals who are really becoming experts on either the laser cutter or other tools. They are almost to a point where they could supervise the space for short periods of time. So exciting!

In the late fall/early winter we tried a few pop-up activities to entice students to come in and make things. We got a few takers, but it wasn’t a great return on investment.

However, this spring attendance is up. I can’t necessarily explain it. I attributing most of it to the pattern described in the 1980’s shampoo commercial “she told two friends, and they told two friends.” While we have not gotten too far removed from the second or maybe third set of original friends, we do have confident students in the space who attract others and can begin to support them once they get there.

A solid first year!


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