Once thought of as a solitary pursuit for garage-hobbyists, DIY and tinkering culture has shifted from hobby to pedagogy as educators embrace the Maker Movement for its potential to transform different aspects of education. We’ve talked about how the Maker Movement could potentially provide solutions to some of the challenges we face in higher education, but what do you actually need to start a Makerspace at your school?
Rather than let yourself get overwhelmed by the number of technological offerings, it’s important to consider how these tools will integrate into the culture and curriculum of your school, and what kinds of projects students will actually be pursuing. Will they be prototyping their creative designs? Tinkering with electronics? Building vertical gardens? Different types of Makers require access to different materials and resources, so it’s important to know who your space will be serving before purchasing any equipment. Do your research and immerse yourself in the DIY/Maker community to learn from those who have done it before, and keep in mind factors like location, necessary power, and noise output before purchasing anything.
Here are some common types of “Makers” and examples of the tech and resources you might find in their spaces:
The Electronics Hobbyist
Whether they’re creating wearable LED screens or building a device that allows them to turn on their coffee maker when they’re still in bed, these students will need an assortment of high and low-tech equipment. Soldering tools; components such as transistors, switches, passives, LEDs; open-source single-board computers; wire cutters and strippers, and more. There are also many kits available online that can help you get started.
The Robotics Enthusiast
They’ve been dreaming of building a giant fighting robot their entire lives, but first they have to start small—maybe a robot that brings their coffee to them in bed. These students will use much of the same equipment as Electronics Hobbyists, as well as sensors, motors, servos, microcontrollers, mechanical parts, and software for programming. Similar to electronics kits, there are many kits online to help you get started with these materials.
The 3D Fabricator
These prototypers and budding manufacturers want to bring their creative designs to life, and they need a different set of tools than the prior groups. They’ll need resources such as research materials for patent searches; 3D design and modeling software; CAD/CAM software; 3D designs from open sources, laser cutters; a 3D scanner, and a 3D printer.
The Media Maker
While media production used to be an expensive and difficult affair, nowadays, anybody with a smartphone or a current DSLR camera can shoot HD video, upload it to a laptop, and edit it into a movie. These Media Makers will need access to DSLR cameras, microphones, tripods, video and photo-editing software, animation software, resources for learning the software, and possibly items that can be used as props or animation materials.
The Low-Tech Craftsperson
Not all “Making” is about circuits and 3D printers—the Maker Movement has been described as the merging of old-world DIY craftsmanship and modern technology, and the low-tech DIY culture is still very present. Craftspeople working on projects like upcycled bookshelves or vertical indoor gardens will need access to woodworking tools and metal-working tools; sewing machines and supplies; art supplies like fabric, cardboard, paper mache; recyclable or up-cyclable materials (think cardboard boxes, old newspapers, pool noodles, scrap wood or metal, PVC pipes, etc), and more.
The most important thing to remember when starting out is to do your research first before purchasing anything and be realistic about what resources your institution needs and can afford. While this is by no means an exhaustive list of all the tech and resources you’d find in a Makerspace, hopefully it will help you get started on bringing the Maker Movement to your institution.