“Sorry, that’s a great idea, but we can’t build it here.”
That’s my nightmare. A student in the STEAM Room, our student Makerspace, approaching me with a brilliant project concept requiring some reasonable tool we didn’t even consider. Of course, there are worse nightmares involving our reciprocating saw or our drill press, but those scenarios are easier to plan around.
How do you come up with an all-encompassing list of tools and materials that will facilitate every student’s wildest dreams, while staying within budget and within space constraints? How can you avoid stifling creativity when you haven’t even polled your students for their interest areas? How do you know when your Makerspace is complete?
In my previous role as a program manager at Microsoft, I would have started with user scenarios. I’d have come up with two or three representative projects and backtracked to see what it would take to get students there. In the end, our STEAM Room would have been very good… at making those two or three projects with some minor tweaks.
The primary goals of our STEAM Room are to empower students to discover their creativity and to encourage them to use computational thinking skills to succeed in crafting their projects. Handing them a generic step-by-step guide that we can then champion as a “student project” works towards neither of those goals. The STEAM Room isn’t a class – it’s a nurturing environment that should feel comfortable to all who enter.
With the clock ticking, it came time to submit the first round of purchases. My budget was roughly $2000, reserving some crucial funds for raw materials and replacements going forward. I spent hours browsing the top items in each of the seemingly relevant categories on Amazon: Crafting. Power & Hand Tools. Electrical. Personal Protective Equipment. Electronics for Kids. I leaned heavily on the wonderful Makerspace Playbook – School Edition. I tried to imagine a few different ways each item could be used, how it might inspire something great in our students. And before I’d even really scratched the surface, my $2000 was spent.
The list of items below is not all-encompassing. It’s not possible to peer into the minds of 160 students and predict all of the amazing ideas they’re going to dream up in the years to come. But we’ll start with what we start with, and we’ll build up from there. Our STEAM Room will never be “ready”, let alone “complete”. It is, however, open to students as of this afternoon.
Here is our initial set of tools and materials in full:
- Safety glasses, work gloves, nitrile gloves and aprons
- Glue sticks, safety glue, Gorilla glue, Loctite, wood glue and a glue gun
- Masking tape, duct tape, Velcro tape, Scotch tape, electrical tape, packing tape
- Tool kits, wrenches, utility knives and a rubber mallet
- Cordless drill, drill press and drill bits
- Hacksaw, hand saw, reciprocating saw and jigsaw
- Scissors, tin snips, wire cutters and a cutting mat
- Clamps and table vises
- Soldering irons, stands and solder
- Dremel kit
- Multimeters and alligator clips
- Rulers, yard sticks, calipers and a level
- Sandpaper, sanding sponges and files
- Heavy duty staples and a staple gun
- Paint brushes, acrylic paint and Sharpies
- Construction paper and origami paper
- Modeling clay and foam sheets
- Sewing kit, felt, twine and fabric squares
- An assortment of screws, nails, washers, nuts and bolts
- Pipe cleaners, rubber bands, popsicle sticks, toothpicks, zip ties and clothespins
- Dustpan and shop vac
- Wacom tablet and mice
- MaKey MaKey kits
- Extraordinaires Design Studio
- Flashforge Creator Pro 3D Printer, ABS filament and PLA filament
- Locking tool cabinets and storage equipment
Have any recommendations for something we missed? Great project ideas we should suggest to students? Let us know in the comments below!