IMAGE: University of Central Florida offers an interactive media makerspace to students, supplied with high-performance equipment to foster “critical making.”
What is a makerspace?
A makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library, or separate public or private facility. It contains tools, components, and resources that allow people to create, learn, explore, and share in order to develop projects.
Makerspaces are most commonly used in an educational environment. Teachers use makerspaces to promote hands-on, collaborative learning and to foster creativity. These spaces may focus on electronics, robotics, woodworking, sewing, laser cutting, or programming. Depending on the age range of those working in the makerspace, the tools can range anywhere from LEGOs to power tools, 3D printers, or laser cutters.
Makerspace vs. hackerspace
In many cases, the terms makerspace and hackerspace are used interchangeably. A hackerspace is a flexible workspace designed for people who share common interests, typically technology-related interests. It’s a physical, set venue in the community where programmers, coders, developers, or anyone with like interests can meet, work, share skills, and engage in creative problem solving.
The main difference between a makerspace and a hackerspace is that a makerspace is often an entity within an organization, whereas a hackerspace is a freestanding organization, typically a nonprofit. In addition, makerspaces typically focus on creating tangible objects, and members may be carpenters, metal workers, textile technicians, etc. Hackerspaces are more focused on technological innovations and have members such as web developers, coders, and programmers.
Also read: Hackerspace Meaning & Definition
Benefits of a makerspace
Many educators choose to integrate makerspaces into classrooms and educational institutions for the following reasons.
A makerspace provides the opportunity to innovate through hands-on experiences. Participants are encouraged to be creative and work with others to develop ideas, methods, or products. This method of learning uses real-world understanding and problem solving. Lectures, video, and textbook concepts are physically applied in a makerspace environment.
Makerspaces also give the opportunity to learn or use something new, such as a new way to approach a problem or a specific power tool.
In makerspaces, failure is likely to occur. This gives participants the opportunity to turn failure into a learning experience and analyze what could have been done better to avoid future failure. A makerspace teaches that failure is part of the learning process and helps eliminate the negative effect that bad grades can have on students.
Teaches basic problem solving
This space gives students the ability to solve problems in ways that may not be evident on paper. A participant may understand a concept in theory, but applying the theory in a real-world situation is easier in a physical environment such as a makerspace.
Examples of makerspaces
The library at American University in Washington, DC has 3 separate makerspaces dedicated to 3D creation, digital production, and craft fabrication. Ball State University in Indiana has makerspaces in their residence halls that include lockers for storing works, a light table, paper cutter, glowforge, and digital drawing tablets.
Other examples of Universities that have makerspaces include:
- Auburn University
- Florida State University
- George Mason University
- Louisiana State University
- Northern Arizona University
- Oklahoma State University
- Texas Tech University
- UMass Amherst
- University of Central Florida
- University of Dayton
- University of Illinois at Chicago
- University of Kansas
- University of South Carolina
- University of the Pacific
- University of Utah
Makerspaces are also growing in popularity in elementary and middle schools as it fosters creativity, exploration, and teamwork in children.