Dept. of Ed launches makerspace design challenge with $200,000 in prizes

White House competition is giving schools the chance to design and realize the perfect makerspace

A new Department of Education-sponsored challenge is letting high school students design the makerspace of their dreams — with $200,000 going to as many as 10 winning schools to help turn their plans into reality.

The competition, called the Career Technical Education (CTE) Makeover Challenge, was recently announced by Acting Education Secretary John B. King Jr, as he called for the re-authorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which provides more than $1.1 billion for career and technical education programs in grades 7-12 and in post-secondary institutions.

For the challenge, entrants must sketch out their ideal makerspace and make it work within existing space already available. Successful makerspaces will focus not only on the tools (there are no requirements for specific pieces of technology) but on the process of manufacturing, testing, and demonstrating ideas. Part of the challenge will be turning traditional school spaces, such as libraries or classroom, into modern makerspaces, which can be shared by students and staff alike. Students will also need to consider how their model can be scaled and replicated by other schools.

Of course, the Department of Ed isn’t asking teams to go it alone. A March 17 webinar will introduce the competition to applicants. And participants are getting access to a six-week bootcamp that provides resources and expertise in makerspace design and planning and there’s a library of resources available online, and a burgeoning hashtag — #CTEMakeover.

“It is great to see leadership from the Department of Education with new the CTE Makeover Challenge,” said Tom Kalil, deputy director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “We need to rethink high school for the 21st century, and give our students experiences that will build their creative confidence and problem-solving skills, and also prepare them for potential STEM careers.”

Blueprints aren’t due from participants until the end of May, but the deadline to submit interest is April 1. Honorees and prizes will be announced during the National Maker Faire in June; winners will present video tours of their completed makerspaces in October.

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