In a recent workshop held at the Edgerton Center, K-12 educators from New England, and as far away as Michigan, learned the value of makerspaces first hand: by rolling up their sleeves, donning safety glasses, and learning how to use the tools and technologies of a makerspace.
Over the course of three days, each of the 16 educators built a customized light-up nameplate that demonstrated the wide variety of technologies a class of middle and high school students could take advantage of, within a makerspace setting.
To construct their project, participants used a laser cutter to cut wood and acrylic, built an electronic circuit with LEDs, a potentiometer, and a piezo buzzer, and designed a handle made from PVC pipe. In the process, they learned how to use Tinkercad software, Gravit Designer, a Dremel 3-D printer, a Dremel rotary grinder, a PVC cutter, a band saw, a drill press, and more.
For one educator, learning how to use the software was key and has given her the confidence to introduce hands-on projects to her students. Other participants appreciated the chance to learn how other educators are using makerspaces within the existing curriculum and the chance to network with other educators who are using makerspaces for student learning.
“We got to learn about running well organized makerspaces while actually experiencing what it is like to work in one,” noted one participant.
Led by the Edgerton Center’s Lead Maker Educator, Diane Brancazio, with assistance from Cheetiri Smith ’14, the workshop gave educators – potential and current makerspace leaders – the skills and background knowledge so that they themselves could go back to their school to further refine, or build from scratch, a makerspace.
While the benefits of makerspaces are well known – increased student engagement, empowered learners, 21st century skill sets – Brancazio and Smith also covered the potential pitfalls inherent in the makerspace movement such as competing academic obligations and lack of skills in the technology, both of which lead to disuse of makerspaces.
Along with the making, there were interludes for presentations from local teachers. As well, lunch presentations were given by senior lecturer in mechanical engineering, Dawn Wendell; Museum Studio manager Seth Riskin; and Edgerton Center associate director James Bales. Edgerton Center instructor Ed Moriarty led a Saturday Thing experience (unstructured play in a structured environment) on a Thursday evening while Dremel associates Kyle Kennedy, Marie Verceles, and Brittany Hopper presented on Dremel tools.