Ask the Expert (Makerspaces)

What is a Makerspace?

Makerspaces are “DIY” social spaces where students meet to create, design, share ideas and learn. They may contain a variety of resources — craft, hardware supplies, 3D printers, electronics, etc.

Why should we start a makerspace?

Makerspaces are popular because they incubate STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills, marketable proficiencies for students in the 21st-century economy. Aside from STEM, makerspaces promote collaboration, critical thinking and creativity — skills students use in college and career.

What does it look like?

A makerspace can be as high-tech or low-tech as desired. The important factor is to provide a safe, collaborative environment.

Furniture and equipment should be flexible and durable, enabling student-teacher movement and task-transitioning. Furnishings should also allow for enhanced organization of various objects (e.g. peg boards for hanging tools). If your makerspace is high-tech, furnishings should provide options to charge tools and devices.

In many schools, media centers facilitate problem-solving and design-thinking projects in varied dynamic makerspaces. Areas of discovery include robotics, iMovie making, gaming, circuitry, music production and construction while utilizing high-tech tools such as 3D printers and graphic design programs.

What are some ideas?

Great makerspace projects are mashups from all disciplines. For example, circuitry combined with paper can provide a new perspective on greeting cards or signs; water could be used to test floatable machines; etc.

About the Author

Bryan Shark is the vice president of Sales – Furniture and Equipment at School Specialty, Inc., a leading distributor of products, services and solutions to the education marketplace.