makerspace design challenges

5 tips for better makerspaces

A successful school makerspace needs an enthusiastic maker community, school-wide participation, and staff support.

Challenge-based learning projects in the makerspace have many benefits for students, and can engage and get them excited about new projects.

In “Challenge-Based Learning in the School Library Makerspace,” Diana Rendina, media specialist and writer for Tampa Preparatory School, Tampa, FL, presented tips for design challenges and shared experiences from working in the makerspace during her time at Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa, FL.

When Rendina first started her position at Stewart Middle Magnet School, a public STEM magnet school, there was almost nothing in the library for hands-on STEM learning. Diana worked with the students to form a makerspace planning committee, and eventually raised money to transform a corner of the library into a dedicated makerspace.

Students worked on projects through open exploration, consisting of mainly free time in the makerspace; workshops, in which students work in groups to learn new skills; and design challenges, in which a group of students focuses on a specific challenge directed by a prompt.

Design Challenges for Better Makerspaces

Design challenges are one of the most effective ways to get students engaged in the makerspace.

1. Start with a Design Prompt

Rendina noted that it is helpful for the students to start with a design prompt to define clear guidelines and the purpose of the challenge.

Some of the challenges Rendina did with her students include the Rubber Band Launcher Challenge, where the students must build a device that could launch something and must include a rubber band in their design; the Cardboard Challenge, an open-ended challenge where the students must create something using at least 75 percent cardboard; and the Phone/Tablet Holder, where students build a device that can hold a phone steady to take picture or video.

(Next page: More musts for a better makerspace)

Meris Stansbury

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