Open Makerspace: Take Two

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Since our library makerspace has been available, I’ve tried as much as possible to have it open for students to use for their own tinkering and making as well as for classes to use in collaboration with me in the library.  This has not been an easy process, but I’ve tried several things and learned a lot.

A couple of months ago, Gretchen Thomas from UGA helped me get an open makerspace time started each day.  It was from 11-12:15 and an independent study student from UGA helped me facilitate students.  The problem with this time was the unpredictable nature.  We didn’t have students sign up ahead of time, so some days there would be an overwhelming number and some days there was just a few.  Also, all the students wanted to do different things which was very hard to manage.  During one of the weeks, we went through $75 worth of duct tape and students weren’t really making anything that they were happy enough to take with them.

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I’m not one to give up, so Gretchen and I did some talking over email and decided to try something new.  We would pull back the makerspace to Monday-Thursday.  Rather than have every day be a free for all, we decided to create a signup sheet.  We also decided that each day would have a focus so that the UGA helpers could begin to develop some expertise in specific areas and students could be more productive by focusing on one or two resources.  Again, this was all an experiment to see how it played out.

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So far, it has been working really well.  On Friday of each week, students sign up for the upcoming week.  They can only sign up for one day at the moment because we have only allowed 7-10 people per 30-minute time slot.  This number may increase as we see how manageable larger numbers of students might be.

Our schedule consists of:

  • Monday 3D design and Sphero
  • Tuesday littleBits and Sphero
  • Wednesday 3D design and Sphero
  • Thursday crafts and Sphero
  • There are also some independent projects woven in such as MaKey MaKey and Lego Robotics

We decided to put Sphero on the schedule daily because of the student demand and the fact that we  now have 13 Spheros.  It is easy to setup and cleanup quickly, and students can do it independently while the other pairings such as 3D design take a little more support.

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On Thursdays, Gretchen’s Maker Dawgs class sends a few students with a planned craft.  Duct tape was a huge hit, but as I’ve said, we found that students were using lots of duct tape without really getting anywhere.  We decided we would try different kinds of crafts with more of a focus on producing something to take away.  This focus might help students see the kinds of things they might create, which we hope leads to new ideas from students.  One week students created Origami.  This past week, the focus was Shrinky Dinks.  Many students had never experience Shrinky Dinks.  The Maker Dawgs brought in a Shrinky Dink maker, which basically looks like an Easy Bake Oven.

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Also, Gretchen made Shrinky Dink name tags for all of us.

The Maker Dawgs paired the Shrinky Dinks with friendship bracelet making, so some students combined Shrinky Dinks onto their frindship bracelet.  It was a very popular and productive makerspace time.

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Our newest problem is how to print all of the 3D creations that students are making.  That’s the next thing on my list to figure out.  Students want to print right away, and it’s hard for them to understand that designing can take a few minutes but printing can take a few hours.

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We take each challenge as it comes.  We expect the miraculous, and we don’t give up.