Educators now embrace the practice of making since its benefits to students can foster academic and personal growth. The Makerspace gives students access to the tools and materials to develop problem solving skills while allowing them the freedom to discover knowledge on their own. I was so disappointed when I began getting involved with public schools and realized that, due to limited funding, very few students had access to Makerspaces.
This gap in access is what spawned my idea for a portable Makerpace in the form of a cart, which can be moved about an institution or rotate through a whole school system. It can service a larger number of students than any fixed Makerspace can, and with less cost. It is has been dubbed the Mobilemaker:ED Cart, and contains two key pieces of equipment, a 3D printer and laser cutter.
These two primary tools are the perfect entry-level experiences for students. When coupled with 3D computer software, it can encourage spatial thinking. The cart also contains an array of electronic components, which allows for projects that have a user interface element. It can accommodate a standard classroom size, and pairs well with an existing laptop cart.
The Mobilemaker:ED Cart is an natural extension of the pioneering work of mobile making spaces like The Makery, a New York pop-up maker space or the Geekbus, which is a traveling enclosed Makerspace. The success of these types of mobile outreach programs shows that the ED Cart can provide a needed service of increasing the exposure to learning-by-making.
A recent study sponsored by Microsoft showed that students who had even a small exposure to a making experience showed a higher degree of interest in STEM subjects as a result. As one of my 6th grade students Tomas says, “I have a rough draft in my head and then I go straight to building… I’m getting ideas now for stuff I want to build in the future and see if my designs work.”
The Mobilemaker:ED Cart is a part of a broader education program of adfab:ED whose mission is to create equal access to meaningful learning opportunities for under-served youth. We are currently prototyping the cart and planning a pilot program where the cart will rotate every two weeks to a different school. When this initial pilot is completed, the cart will be available through several options, a direct equipment purchase, lease-to-own, a subscription with monthly curriculum updates, or as part of our 1-day workshops for students and educators.
We are currently crowdfunding for completion of the prototype and pilot program. If you want to support this effort to bring the program to under-served students, visit our Indiegogo campaign to contribute, or contact us at [email protected] to get more information or review grant options. Our goal is to lead students down a path of critical thinking, and hope they continue this path into the STEM program courses and even employment within the technology or digital fabrication field later in life. Maker education programs develop skills that can become relevant for any career.