Anthony Neil Tan
Makerspace Launch: How I made on-campus makerspaces accessible to all.
Updated: Jun 27, 2020
After hosting Maker Week, a series of school-wide maker workshops at Rowland High School (RHS), I felt compelled to do more. Maker Week inspired students to make, but for the most part, students still lacked the physical tools necessary for starting a project. With that in mind, I immediately began my search for on-campus makerspaces, classrooms that empower students with tools to make. To my surprise, I found four at my high school. Collectively, they housed an astounding supply of diverse maker resources: textiles, arduinos, automobiles, laser cutters & 3D printers.
Yet these makerspaces were underutilized. Rarely did students use them for projects outside of class. Why? Maybe students didn’t care about making projects, but Maker Week proved otherwise. For those willing to make, the issue was awareness and accessibility. Students who never step foot in those makerspaces never knew about those resources and thus couldn't use them. And those aware of makerspaces still were hesitant to try. First, I tackled accessibility. I spoke with teachers so that all students, even those not enrolled in the teachers’ classes, were welcome to use select makerspace resources. To make the process of approaching teachers for makerspaces less intimidating (trust me, teachers don’t bite!), I created a four-step process to making.
Second, I prepared a makerspace awareness event. To maximize publicity and impact, my team and I made laser-cut keychains to give away to attendees. The keychains would promote the event and continue to spread awareness of makerspaces when attached to backpacks. Moreover, the keychains were made through the four-step process, setting an example for attendees to follow.
All of this culminated in a school-wide event called Makerspace Launch, a meeting to introduce RHS students to makerspaces on campus. My team and I gave a detailed presentation on makerspace resources and demonstrated how to use the four-step process to making.
We had over 60 attendees and ran out of keychains, but it wasn't the number of attendees that made this event a success; it was the actions we inspired other students to take. Right when the event ended, a freshman asked to join our organization and a RHS Best Buddies club officer proposed a partnership in creating a maker project. In the weeks following Makerspace Launch, an attendee followed the four-step process and made a 3D-print, a penguin he designed himself on computer program Tinkercad.
I felt so satisfied with the results that, later on, Makerspace Launch became the inspiration for Community Service Maker Projects (MAKE platform). These projects not only provide students with the opportunity to make, but also the chance to create a positive impact in the community. Most of all, their efforts don’t go unnoticed. To this day, many attendees have Makerspace Launch keychains on their backpacks, reminding students that makerspaces are available for them to use.