This weekly column will feature the latest topics and trends constantly emerging in a rapidly-growing technical world. Each week, we will focus on a specific technical topic, with topics covering a wide range of technical issues and the latest technical gadgets.
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Makerspaces are like a wave, rolling through innovative and hands-on learning. Makerspaces are popping up in libraries and schools. A makerspace can be described in many different ways.
Though they generally fit the same mold, each makerspace has its own personality and is defined by how it is used.
It is a place where people from various walks of life can gather to question, investigate and explore. Many makerspaces house 3D printing, soldering, programming, sewing or building. A makerspace is comparable to a club or living learning community.
Like-minded individuals can get together to socialize and better themselves. The main focus is innovative thinking. If a library acquires a 3D printer, it does not automatically have a makerspace. A big aspect of these spaces is the learning.
Walking up to a printer and inputting someone else’s design can be useful, but does not have nearly as much depth as learning how to create your own design. Libraries and public schools have a huge role in promoting innovative thinking.
The development of makerspaces allows for both places to run programs that challenge students to think and learn in fun ways.
These programs are a fantastic way to promote STEM learning. When presented a problem to solve, students with access to a makerspace can use their science and math knowledge to engineer a solution using the technology of the space.
Here at Elizabethtown College, there is actually a large makerspace in the engineering department. The Bollman Fabrication Lab in Esbenshade 174 is a $750,000 lab that houses 3D printing, metalworking and woodworking. Used by the department for research and projects, the “Fab Lab” is a valuable resource for engaging students in their education.
The Fab Lab was completed in 2014 and has served the department since. Engineering students speak highly of Manager of Engineering Laboratories and Student Fabrication Mark Gatti and the work he does for the department.
He makes sure students learn how to safely operate all the equipment while working on projects.
While not a makerspace, the Innovation Lab in Nicarry 107 is aimed in the right direction. Robotics, 3D design, printing and other education technologies are provided for student use. Four different departments on campus (business, chemistry, music and education) have checked out a Swivl from the Innovation Lab.
Swivl robots are used to record presentations and lectures for use in reflection. Education department professors and student teachers have used robots for lessons.
An education student used Knex from the Innovation Lab last week to run a hands-on math lesson about angles. A religion class is using the Innovation Lab’s two 3D printers to build an exhibit of religious artifacts. First opened in the fall semester of 2015, the Innovation Lab has grown into a viable space that could take the next step to become a legitimate makerspace over the next few years.
The wave of makerspaces rolling across the state and the country is encouraging in a world where innovative problem solvers are needed to tackle global issues.
It is exciting to see the College joining other institutions in advancing innovative learning.