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  • Jeff Madlock

Maker Spaces: More Than Only Technology

A general misconception surrounding the maker space movement, especially in education circles, centers on technology. That is, many people believe a maker space is all about robots, bits and pieces, 3d printing, coding, and the like.

In truth, maker spaces can be those things, but can (and should) be much more than those things. True maker spaces should provide ample opportunity for users (students, members, etc) to CREATE, to MAKE things. Examples include: woodworking, metallurgy, textiles, painting and/or graphic design, sculpting, writing, etc. Sometimes, maker spaces are limiting the amount of, and kinds of, works that can be created because they do not offer non-technological counterparts to the overwhelming tech available.

Ideally, a user should be able to walk into a maker space with an idea for a product or a project and then use any and/or all available resources within the walls of the maker space to see that idea come to full fruition. Okay, maybe not full fruition – but far enough along that they could walk out with a prototype ready for production.  Let’s say a student has an idea for a backpack. They should be able to design the backpack, cut the fabrics, sew the pieces together, and walk out with a backpack. Does that involve technology? It can for sure – computer application(s) to design the backpack and to research how they are made and electronic sewing machines to help assemble the parts, plus whatever other technology might be used or needed. But, the creator could just as easily grab the fabric, scissors, thread and needles and accomplish the same thing.

Now, what if the student wants to take the design further? They want to add speakers or headphones. They want to add a flashing light or lights for safety when the backpack detects it is in the dark. They want to add some other kind of electronic accents. What do they do? They delve further into the tech side of the maker space – coding, electronics, etc.

After the student has their backpack with light sensors and flashing warning LEDs, they want to market it. Where do they go? Who do they talk to about such things? Again, in an ideal maker space, those types of conversations can be had. Maybe the maker space operator/owner has contact info for local or national marketing partners. Maybe the owner/operator brings in such folks once a month and holds a “Shark Tank” style presentation arrangement.

Whatever one thinks of when visualizing a maker space, one must remember to include a variety of makers spaces within the entirety of the maker space environment.

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