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It’s back-to-school season!  Students at Grand Center Arts Academy (GCAA), a public charter school in St. Louis, have arrived to find a portion of their library transformed into a makerspace.

The GCAA Makerspace is a drop-in space for students to maximize their creative genius.  Students have access before school, during study hall, at lunch, and after school to invent using a variety of electronics and workshop tools including Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Makey Makey, a MakerBot Replicator 2, and plenty of craft supplies.  Students may visit the makerspace to practice coding, work on long-term projects, or participate in the weekly design challenges – small projects that introduce them to the principles of design thinking.  In addition, the GCAA Makerspace is open to teachers and their classes to integrate making into general coursework.

GCAA parents & community members have been rallying behind the makerspace, even before its opening.  Parent & LEED Green Associate Dr. Katie Belisle-Iffrig has been leading the effort to establish a Makerspace Booster Club to help raise funds and gather supplies for the space.

“Makerspace provides GCAA students with unique opportunities to meld left-brain critical thinking skills with right-brained creativity and innovations to create solutions to real world problems,” said Belisle-Iffrig.

Many donations of “junk drawer” items including cardboard, craft materials, and tools have been arriving.  Colin Faulkingham & David Achilleus, co-owners of local hackerspace Area 42, donated 2 Raspberry Pis and a Public Lab Spectrometer for Makerspace students.

“There should be a makerspace/hackerspace in every community and in every school.  In the same way that we support sports within our schools and in our community with recreations centers, we as a society should support makerspaces as recreational centers for the mind,” said Faulkingham.

Additional support is still needed for the crowdsourced Makerspace Grant Program.  GCAA students will be able to apply for $30 mini-grants to fund materials for their projects.  The goal is to empower students so they build the skills of planning a project, pitching an idea, and setting a budget.

Follow GCAA Makerspace happenings on our blog or via Twitter @GCAAMakerspace.

Andrew Goodin is the Makerspace Facilitator at Grand Center Arts Academy, a public charter school in St. Louis, MO.  He also co-founded The Disruption Department, a St. Louis based nonprofit that provides student-centered STEAM experiences to build a pipeline of innovative talent.

Whether it’s designing a prototype for the 3D Printer, programming an Arduino, or collaborating with peers on a project, Andrew strives to have his students exploring, tinkering, and creating on a daily basis.

Andrew earned his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Washington State University in 2008 and his Masters of Education in Secondary Education from the University of Missouri – St. Louis in 2010.  Follow him @DesertDiver or via the GCAA Makerspace blog.

Parker Thomas

Parker leads the team that keeps makezine.com and makerfaire.com running. He used to build two-seat, 200 mph airplanes and now focuses on treehouses, zip lines, Lego dioramas (Hogwarts and Tattooine), pens and anything else his kids want to build. He can be reached at parker@makermedia.com.


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