A version of this article appears in the MAKE’s special issue on the Ultimate Workshop.
How do we give more opportunities to young people to become makers and learn practical skills that can be applied to their own creative projects? The question comes up for me after each Maker Faire when I see how young people are inspired by other makers. I know they go home and want to start making things themselves. Unfortunately, many potential makers go to schools that do not offer, in school or after school, the opportunity to begin making things. One thing they lack is a physical space to meet, a space that can be organized with tools and supplies, so they can work on projects.
At World Maker Faire in NY, I saw a solution to the problem of creating a makerspace in or near a school or other places in our community. Shelter 2.0Â is an effort (by ?) to develop a simple building to provide housing in areas that have been hit by a disaster. Itâ€™s a digitally fabricated shelter that is in between a house and tent. It can be put together (and taken apart) with simple tools in a matter of hours, even by the young makers themselves.
Alice Waters pioneered getting gardens into schools in the belief that growing vegetables can connect children to the process of making food but also teaches them about healthy food. A makerspace building can be constructed and placed next to the garden, and perhaps even used by young gardeners as well to build tools.
Can we find motivated parents and local makers to begin the process of creating a space and developing programs for local kids? In complete DIY fashion. Itâ€™s a barn-raising of a makerspace for a local community. It could not be more in the spirit of making that young makers begin by building their own space.
Developed by Robert Bridges working with Bill Young of ShopBot, the standard modular makerspace is 10â€™ x 16â€™ with a barrel-shaped roof that can be covered by canvas or corrugated tin. The plans themselves are available under a Creative Commons license and as a Google SketchUp model. So you could modify the plan and find a local ShopBot user to create the shelter yourself. Or we can provide the standard components as a package that ships in a 4×8 crate. (We are still exploring the different options for manufacturing and shipping.) All the instructions for building a makerspace will be online, along with videos that walk you through the process.
Now, you donâ€™t have to build this particular building to have a makerspace for young makers. The most important thing is to find a DIY way to create a space that young makers can use and will find enjoyable to work and play in. A space can inspire us to see making as something that takes place at school, but isnâ€™t school. It should be placed near the playground because we want our young makers to have fun and play, while making things.
Many parents (and some schools) have the resources to get a makerspace up and running themselves, and we want to make it easy for them. For those who donâ€™t have the resources, but have the commitment to make it happen, we will look for funding to underwrite all or part of a makerspace. However, it canâ€™t happen without parents as true partners.
Our goal is to build a network of makerspaces around the country (if not the world) and connect them online through makerspace.com. We can begin a process of open collaboration to define the materials, tools and other supplies that are needed, as well as identifying programs and projects that work well for young makers. We can help identify mentors locally and online who can offer safety training and teach about tool use and who can provide specialized expertise. In addition, we will develop awards for participation and achievement to recognize the accomplishments of young makers. Plus, Mini Maker Faires can be used as a local fundraiser to provide support for makerspaces and also provide an opportunity for young makers to demonstrate their projects.