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The Independent School Magazine: Peddie School Makerspace Design/Assembly Space

How You Can Make a Makerspace Work for Your School

by Quinn Schwenker, AIA, LEED AP and Moira McClintock, AIA on 1/6/2016
Category: Reimagining Education | Curriculum/Teaching methods

Makerspaces — school-based, concept-to-reality, hands-on learning spaces — use a comprehensive approach. They
have become popular among today’s educators because of the high demand for future professionals who are not only
technically skilled but also experienced in working collaboratively with their peers.

For example, Peddie School (New Jersey) recently unveiled a
4,300-square-foot, state-of-the-art digital fabrication
laboratory, complete with design, engineering, and testing
studios. This Fab Lab continues the school’s tradition of
innovating and using technology to enhance learning,
according to Elizabeth Silverman, chair of the board of
trustees at Peddie.

“We believe it is important to not only integrate technology
more fully into our curriculum, but also to foster
interdisciplinary learning, provide opportunities for
concrete applications of our STEM courses, and further
develop the critical thinking skills of our students,” says
Silverman.

The College Board reports that according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the growth of jobs in the STEM
disciplines was three times as fast as growth in non-STEM disciplines in the last 10 years. STEM jobs are expected to
grow by 17 percent versus 9.8 percent for non-STEM jobs in the 10-year period leading to 2018. But as a nation, we
are not graduating nearly enough STEM majors to meet the demand. As is well documented, the United States has to
either export many technical projects or import foreign talent to complete them here.

 

“Makerspaces could be a mid- and long-range macroeconomic strategy to re-onshore American technology and to
reinvest for advanced manufacturing in the United States,” says Evan Malone, president of NextFab, a Philadelphiabased
makerspace.

If you are considering a makerspace for your school, there are several key components to consider, including
teachers, cost, space, technology, and ways of measuring success.

What You Need in a Makerspace Teacher:
Perhaps the single most important component of a successful makerspace is the individual who manages the
program. Finding the right person for the job can be a challenge, particularly because people with the required skills
are in high demand in for-profit industries. On the other hand, your school’s hiring edge may be your ability to offer
qualified candidates a quality-of-life benefit.

Among the issues you need to keep in mind:
Makerspace teachers need a broad background and should be able to
adapt to new technologies. They will
preferably have some experience in a field related to the makerspace,
such as computer science, engineering, and/or
robotics. But the STEM disciplines aren’t the only ones that justify having
a makerspace; rather, transforming STEM
to STEAM — by adding art and design — morphs the makerspace into a
truly multi- and inter-disciplinary learning
site.
“The best makerspace teachers are creative thinkers, problem solvers,
and people who embrace new technology;
those can be teachers from very diverse backgrounds,” says Malone.

Teachers should be encouraged to work collaboratively and across disciplines. To share ideas and gain
mentors, they should keep up with technology conferences, such as the ones from the International Technology and
Engineering Educators Association, as well as blogs and social media sites from academic and community-based makerspaces.
Your school can also hire consultants to train staff members on new equipment and/or technologies periodically.
Teachers may need to secure partnerships with community members in related fields who will be willing to
donate mentoring time and skill training for both the students and the teacher. Those experts could be active
professionals or local retirees.

What to Consider About Cost, Space, and Technology
A makerspace can be a sizable investment in several ways. Start-up costs can be high, requiring at least $10,000 in
the first year, plus a commitment to add to the makerspace with sizable annual investments. But academic discounts
on new equipment will help make it more affordable.

Typical makerspace equipment could include computer workstations
for design and programming, plus high-tech
engineering equipment, such as 3D printers and computerized
numerical control (CNC) such as a ShopBot, which is
a CNC router that is excellent for woodworking, manufacturing,
prototyping, and creating furniture.
You can create a simple makerspace in your school media center with
only tech design computers and a 3D printer
for small projects. But once you add CNC equipment, you must secure
those devices in a static space with electrical
power and compressed air. Plus, you need flexible open floor space
with movable tables for project construction.

Peddie School renovated more than 4,300 square feet of existing space to create a
dedicated workspace for digital fabrication. The redesign of the school’s old boiler
plant included a poured concrete floor; new HVAC and electrical systems; a second
story; and three unique spaces for design, engineering, and testing. Fully equipped
makerspaces have technologies and materials with separate and conflicting facility
and safety requirements, such as safety equipment, fire safety measures, and
environmental controls.
How to Measure Success with a Makerspace
When a makerspace fulfills its mission every semester on a daily, weekly, and
monthly basis, then it is a success. Therefore, success for your independent school
makerspace starts by just:

     •getting it operational;
     • securing commitments for short- and mid-range funding;
     • reallocating space within an existing campus for the makerspace; and
     • hiring the right teacher, complete with training, experience, vision, passion,
        and energy, to build and lead your makerspace program.

How a Makerspace Will Give Students an Edge
Given society’s unrelenting demand for professionals who can work
collaboratively, are technically proficient, and possess excellent
leadership skills, it is not surprising that makerspaces are becoming a
major trend in education. Adding one can help prepare your students
for the future as it sets your school apart from the competition.
Peddie looks forward to the possibilities that its new digital fabrication
lab will provide to students and faculty for years to come.
“As the lab is as limitless in potential as our students’ imaginations, we
can create 150-pound robots, or props and costumes for the musical,
or a bicycle for the sophomore cycling trip,” says Catherine Rodrigue,
associate head of Peddie. “As students problem solve, design, build,
iterate, and revise in the laboratory, they learn important lessons
about creativity, grit, failure, and success — and develop skills that will
prepare them for a lifetime of innovation.”