A makerspace is a collaborative workspace where students can work, socialise and collaborate to learn, build, invent and share projects requiring tech and non-tech tools. Such a space is usually equipped with tools and equipment to undertake activities related to computers, robotics, IoT, Electronics, science, digital art, art & craft, etc. It’s a shared area that may also be equipped with instructional guides and books that aid creation of projects and prototypes.
In the olden days, makerspaces were referred to as hackerspaces, where programmers would meet to work and collaborate on projects, and share knowledge and infrastructure. C-base was the first independent hackerspace, set up in Berlin, Germany, in 1981.
Now, hackerspaces/makerspaces have gone more mainstream, and there are a number of makerspaces for both professionals and students, like The Geek Group, Metalab, TechShop and Tokyo HackerSpace. Schools in the US, UK, Canada, Turkey, Australia, and many other countries are encouraging teachers to create makerspaces in classrooms, libraries, or independent rooms, where students can put knowledge to practice, where they can explore and experiment with tools and equipment to learn and create.
Leaders can choose the subjects as per their needs, and equip the space as per the requirements of that subject, leaving room for future changes and developments.
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How elaborate to go
Making a Makerspace can be challenging for teacher new to technology, and sometimes, it’s just a conundrum about what to include to make a space enabling but not overwhelming.
The idea is to enable kids to learn and grow, so whether you equip basic tools or go grande, it’s all worth it. It can be an individual, teacher, school or community-led initiative, and can include a wide range of things like solar panels, haptic sensors, robotics kits, Raspberry Pi kits, drones, Lego programming kits, 3D printers, and electronic circuits.
When done on a professional scale, it can even enable product designers and developers and entrepreneurs to create industry innovations and prototypes.
How to get funding and resources
If you need to raise funds or find a way to procure resources for a makerspace, then following ways might help:
– Seek grants or funding from your state’s education department
– Tap into corporates’ CSR budgets, sponsorships and grants–many companies are willing to spend on education
– Raise funds from the community of parents, or ask parents to donate extra tools and equipment
– Do a fundraiser or a garage sale, and involve interested students in promoting it
Equip the space with subject-related equipment and tools
Make project and activity guides and sheets available
Invite students to explore, interact, and create
Provide them guidance wherever they require it to work with the available tools, but refrain from hand-holding, and let them use their creativity
Encourage group activities and projects
Encourage them to share their creations with others and to talk about how they arrived at the final product
Lastly, consider giving them appreciation certificates to promote their making behaviour
Create a space where one can tinker with technology to make it do things it was not originally designed to do, or to create things that are innovative and push the boundaries of traditional creations. A makerspace is like an art school, where only your imagination (and the laws of Physics) is the limit.
We hope that you find this ‘mini-guide to starting a makerspace’ useful. We’ll soon be revising this article to include detailed Equipment and Activity lists for each subject, so that you can concentrate on bigger things like procurement of resources and enabling children. Stay tuned!