One small downside of placing a makerspace in a school is that it might be used only when students are present and the campus is open.

Bryant Patten of The National Center for Open Source and Education has come up with a clever solution to give the whole community access to this valuable community resource. He’s working with a couple of high schools in northern New England to transform shop spaces into makerspaces. And here’s one difference to his plan: he’s helping them find ways to open up that converted space to people in the community … after school hours.

He listed the benefits of his approach–what the school and the community get from following his plan:

  1. Turn students who are passive consumers of stuff and information into active makers.
  2. Community makers could pay a monthly fee for after-hours access, providing a much-needed revenue stream for budget-crunched schools.
  3. The building is ‘free.’ Often, community hackerspaces must pay rent for a space.
  4. A mentorship program with local experts and craftspeople would break down the barrier between community and schools.
  5. The students using the makerspace would be a source of interns for summer co-ops or, eventually, potential hires.
  6. Local manufacturers might see the benefit and sponsor machinery purchases.

Schools hosting hackerspaces, and hackerspaces opening up during daytime hours for schools to use their machines: we think this is a potentially rewarding symbiosis. Have you seen this model in action?

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2 Responses to Students by Day, Hackers at Night

  1. Schools, libraries and other public places could make great makerspaces after hours. There are often underutilized spaces, like (former) shop rooms, etc under Dept of Ed control. A space that offers its equipment, training, and community to both kids and adults is a terrific idea. Its at the confluence of ‘makerspace’ (generic autonomous) ‘MAKErspace’ (part of DARPA project) and ‘FabLab’ (MIT inspired educational slanted space).

    One big question I have (and am currently facing in developing our makerspace on DoEd land) is liability. Activities for kids occurring during school hours are covered under the usual school insurance. After school kid activities also get coverage. Both cases usually require signed parental consent forms. What about adult usage after hours? The Entity running the after hours program will most likely NOT be the school itself. It will need to provide liability coverage that protects the school from people injuring themselves doing maker stuff. What about injuries due to faults in the facility?

    Another issue is access hours. Makers like to work at all sorts of hours … mid-day when school is in session, late night after kids have gone to bed, all night hacking sessions. Could a school shop be open 24/7 to non-school makers?

    I look forward to hearing discussion of this here and next week at the USFabLab Network annual symposium in Tulsa OK (http://usfln.org/symposium-2012/) where Dale is the keynote speaker.

  2. Barry says:

    We have something similar at our Da Vinci Center, formerly the professional development center for our county office of education, we’ve converted computerlabs into make labs with 3D printers and laser cutters, CNC lathes and routers, and more.
    We’ve also launched an paid and non-paid intern program to provide assistance and supervision.
    It’s not yet a fully integrated program open to the public, but we do have business partners and we have done some prototyping and design work for outside parties.

    We look forward to working with Makerspace and others to expand and improve the model.