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University Makerspaces 2: Support from Staff

Expand your Audience Reach: Support from University Staff

University staff members are vast and wide in their exposure to the student population. They are responsible for aiding students in their on-campus experience outside of the academic setting. Staff members may serve the students as club leaders, mentors, and advisors in addition to their day-to-day role.

Collaborating with staff members is critical in engaging students to use the Makerspace for growth opportunities outside of the classroom. If your Makerspace is currently limited to only allowing academic projects, consider altering these policies to permit personal projects. When students are able to work in the Makerspace for their own enjoyment and fulfillment, they have a greater sense of personal growth and will look forward to learning new machines and tools on their own time. Pro Tip: These students also tend to be the best ones to hire because they are most passionate about the Makerspace! 

When collaborating with staff members to host their students in your facility for events and workshops, you are exposing an even greater number of students to the Makerspace and all of its resources. Are you not sure who might be the best staff members to connect with on campus? Generate a list of campus partners who directly oversee and work with students. Chances are they are also looking for ways to engage their students with resources on campus.

Some key partners may include:

  • Clubs and Organizations Advisors
  • Greek Life Leaders 
  • Student Affairs Staff (Campus Activities; Student Union; Diversity and Inclusion, Greek Life, Counseling, Student Health, etc)
  • Athletic Coaches

Prior to meeting with these staff directors, brainstorm ways in which you can support their organization/student group. The type of team bonding activities that work best for student athletes may look very different from mindfulness activities the counseling center wishes to host. Since you are the expert of your Makerspace resources, the staff members will look to you to generate initial thoughts. Ideas will flow naturally from there. 

In addition to directly connecting with university staff members on an individual basis, consider presenting at staff forums or department meetings. This setting allows for quick exposure to a larger group of staff at once. 

In your presentations, consider including:

  • Resources available in the Makerspace
    • Example projects with pictures are key!  
  • Ways in which the students can connect with your facility on their own
    • Resources that are available to them on a day-to-day basis
  • Workshops and events that staff members can host in the Makerspace for their group 
    • Creating a booklet of activities is an easy and efficient way for staff to select an activity for a large group of students to participate in. An example activity may be laser cut keychains with the club’s logo. The key chains are laser cut ahead of time and the student club members paint the keychains at their team event. 
  • Contact information/How staff members can reserve out the Makerspace for an event
    • If you want groups (or even classes) to reserve the Makerspace for a workshop, forms are an easy way to collect all of the information you need and keep it organized in one location. Form fields may include contact information, budget, activity type, special requests, etc).

The goal of collaborating with staff members is to expose more students to the Makerspace than those that will traditionally use the facility for their academics. When students come to the Makerspace for a low-stress and low-commitment workshop, they will associate those feelings with the facility and be likely to come back for future events and projects. 

The best way to expose staff members and their student groups to the Makerspace is through a team building activity. Events hosted in the makerspace provide a unique opportunity for students to connect while learning a new skill. Based on what you are trying to accomplish with the group, you may select an activity that is worked on by all student members or is an individual project worked on independently. 

  • Example Team Building Activity: A student group is looking to create matching apparel for an upcoming conference. Rather than purchase their own shirts, the group decides to host a team building activity in the makerspace. They each bring a blank shirt to the space and then learn how to use the vinyl cutter and heat press. From there, students then create their own shirts. This event allowed students to learn 2 new machines, bond over the process, and feel a sense of accomplishment by working hard to create something they will use. 
  • Example Team Building Activity: An athletic team is looking to provide incentives for students to come out to the final tournament game of the season. They have a limited budget and cannot afford to go to an outside vendor. Instead, they decide to come to the makerspace and create their own laser cut and 3D printed giveaways such as keychains with the school’s logo. Not only do they accomplish their goal, but they have a bonding opportunity in the process. 

Exposing the resources available in your Makerspace to staff members is an invaluable way to help spread the word about your facility. Whether or not the staff chooses to use the Makerspace for a team bonding workshop, they are still well connected with students across campus and will be sure to spread the word about how your facility can aid the students in their academic and personal projects. 

[Feature Photo by Leon on Unsplash]

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Sabrina Shankar

Sabrina has spent the last 8 years working in a variety of digital, fabrication, and makerspace labs leading to her current role supervising a fine art studio and makerspace at Bucknell University. Her passion for integrating fine art mediums with modern technology has developed unique programs and new opportunities for ways in which participants can connect with the makerspace. In her free time, Sabrina consults for makerspaces across the country to aid in the development and growth of their facility.

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