Through the MakerSpaces I have developed, seen and consulted for, I have witnessed two general approaches to planning these spaces. The first approach starts with the initial desire to provided certain tools in order to foster a maker culture. The Maker Lounge is a perfect example of this approach - My staff and I wanted to get a laser cutter for our school and needed somewhere to house it. Ultimately, leading to the development of our MakerSpace. While there is nothing wrong starting with the initial tools and resources you want to provide, it does leave room for certain unanswered questions. The second approach (my recommended approach) for developing a MakerSpace stems from the design thinking process developed by the D-School at Stanford. In this approach you start with the intended users of the space end empathize with them in order to develop an idea of the most functional type of space for them. Following are a series of questions to guide you through this process.
- How many users will the space support? Are you planning on developing a MakerSpace for a specific class or program or will this be used by a variety of different users? When developing a rough estimate for this question make sure to consider not only which students will be using this space but also which teachers will be using this space.
- How old are the users? Age plays a huge factor into the type of space you are developing. Will this be used primarily by high school seniors or are you developing this space to support making in your elementary school? In our case, the Maker Lounge was developed as a community resource for all three of the schools on our campus serving grades K-12. All tools require training, some much more than others. I have worked with 2nd graders to develop files for our laser cutter, whereas the use of a CNC router is challenging for our 7th graders.
- How often will this space be used? Are you developing this space to act as a stand alone class, where it will be used each day? If so, you may want to consider multiples of the same tools/machines to support this type of work. However, if you are developing this to be used as a support for several classrooms on a less frequent basis a few versatile tools may work just fine.
- What will the space be used for? Will this space be used primarily for electronics and robotics or do you see it being used more as a high end wood shop? Perhaps you are looking to introduce a CTE program into your school with a focus on CNC fabrication. Or, maybe yet you see this space supporting all of the above. How the space will be used will have a large impact on everything from the type of tools you purchase to the physical layout of the space, all of which will be covered in later sections.
- What is the intended purpose of the space? Are you developing this space as a stand alone class, or an after school program? In which case your space may need things like a classroom section with a whiteboard or projector. Or perhaps you want this to be an open space supporting all classes and projects. In which case you may not need the same supports as previously mentioned.