The concept of a makerspace has been a seemingly new idea where students can work with various tools and technology in order to bring their ideas to life. People tend to jump right to 3D printing when they think of a makerspace. However, there are much more to these places than just 3D printing. The “maker movement” has been defined as the use of digital tools to create products (Burke, 2014). While it is understanding to see a makerspace as a bit a of a “fad”, the idea of a makerspace has actually been around for quite some time. The technology has changed significantly in addition to its use in educational contexts, but the use of a space that can assist in inventing and creating is not entirely new.

Kids can be makers…
Adults can be makers…
Here is a graphic demonstrating the Google search activity for makerspace-related topics. This data comes from a 2016 research publication entitled, An Empirically Informed Taxonomy for the Maker Movement (Voigt, C., Montero, C.S, & Michinello, M). DIY (“Do It Yourself”) refers to people who are looking to make something on their own. Around 2012, there appears to be a noticeable rise in the rate of search for DIY projects. Surprisingly, there is a decrease in “Hacking” searches. This is surprising as one would believe that advances in the internet would have caused hacking to increase. Then again, perhaps it has become more difficult to hack due to improvement in security measures. The most noticeable piece of this graphic is the rapid exponential increase in “Makerspace” searched starting around 2012 (Notice that this was at a similar time as the rate increase for “DIY” searches). It appears that people seem to increasingly look to create and innovate on their own since around 2012.

Prior to makerspaces were “Fab Labs”. A Fab Lab stands for fabrication lab which is a similar idea but is more centered around digital and computer software tools. MIT’s Neil Gershenfeld, was one of the originators of Fab Labs. He led a course called, “How to Make Almost Anything” (Burke, 2014).

The premise behind working with our hands on complicated projects is that we will learn along the way. This is a natural form of learning as we learn to be agile and dynamic thinkers. As we progress through our lives, we will constantly have to be independent and collaborative learners in order to identify and solve problems.

The Gowanda Free Library in New York back in 1873 was one of the earliest adopters of a making community where activities were led in quilting, knitting, and sewing. Libraries have always been a location for the discovery of knowledge. It is naturally an open space and is conducive for collaboration where we can learn from the past in order to create for the future. However, makerspaces have built upon more skills that extend beyond reading and analysis and now also are spaces for people with more hands on skills. While a place to motivate learning, it is a place where students can begin to think more deeply about the world around them.

As I have continued to network with other schools in the Westchester area and across the country, I am noticing many more programs similar to this than were available when I was younger. Schools are collaborating with one another, developing formalized curriculum, and extending learning outside of not just the classroom but outside of common core as well. In other words, emphasis is being placed on skills that are not directly linked to the main subjects.

Here is a picture of a team from Project Invent which is just one of the organizations created to promote student collaboration relating to the invention of products that solve problems they identify. This program comes along with teacher mentorships where teachers around the world can collaborate and learn from one another as well as share resources to support their students.

In prior years, “making” stuff has always been seen as an engaging and hands on activity that people tend to enjoy. These types of activities were more seen in art and woodshop classes.

Woodshop students at MassArt

Before this, in the earliest of time, humans were always looking to create new technology that could help them to navigate the world. However, in 2013, Make: magazine started events called “maker faires” which allowed for inventors and creators from around the world to share their unique projects and a more collaborative community was developed. “Do-it-yourself” became more like “Do-it-with-others”! (Burke, 2014). Before that came President Obama’s “educate to innovate” which promoted the merging of science and engineering in order to excite students so that they may “be makers of things, not just consumers of things” (Sheridan et al, 2014).

An example of early makers: Thomas Savery creating the original steam engine in 1698 (Brittanica). Other example include things as groundbreaking as the lightbulb, telegraph, or the internet. We continue to see inventing occur currently as we advance in technology both with hardware and software.

While a makerspace is typically associated with “making”, it stands for something much greater. It is a new approach to learning that can benefit students with diverse learning styles. It also provides opportunities for students to explore their skillsets and become actively engaged with their world.

2 thoughts on “History of Makerspaces

  1. I have never heard of Makerspaces before but it seems like a great learning tool based on your description. Educational resources that allow for creativity and inventiveness are extremely valuable and engaging as an exploration tool. I agree that this hands-on resource should not just be reserved for art or woodshop classes since its potential and versatility is so clear.

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