This piece from Charles M Schweik at the University of Massachusetts champions the power of makerspaces for lifelong learning. It’s so important that we don’t lose the value of practical experience in childhood. We love his observation that hands-on learning is about making connections – to wider research, students’ long-term goals after education, between areas of study and each other. Visit our Mega Maker Lab this summer to explore the power of making for yourself.
I recently visited various higher education institutions with my daughter, a rising high school senior, as she considered applications to college. We sat through countless campus tours promoting the quality of the food, the dorms, the recreation centers and the sports teams. But in two instances, we heard them highlight a different student facility: their campus “makerspace.”
Makerspaces are physical locations with equipment that students can use to undertake do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. Arguably, they have been around for decades; we just haven’t used the name makerspace. At my institution, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, we’ve had a student-run DIY craft shop on our campus for more than 20 years.
The difference between older forms of makerspaces like that craft shop and emerging ones is that the latter focus more heavily on digital making, such as 3-D design and printing, digital fabrication (sometimes called “FabLabs”), or the programming of open-source electronic hardware like the Arduino microcontroller. What is also new are the maker practices or principles of: 1) licensing digital designs and how-to instructions under a Creative Commons or similar copyright license and 2) openly sharing those designs through internet-enabled, cloud-based maker websites. Licenses chosen usually permit the sharing of the work with author attribution and, in some cases, permit new users to adapt and remix the work for other purposes. For example, at Thingiverse.com, 3-D modelers openly share their digital designs in this manner.