Makerspace = Learning #CreateEDU

This presentation will focus on strategies for transforming your classroom or library into a fabrication Makerspace. I am a high school CTE teacher so my focus will be targeted at the middle/high school grade level. We will discuss funding sources, fabrication tools, software, and lessons you can use with our students.

Why join the Maker Movement?

“The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge.” Seymour Papert

Our goal is to develop independent content creators that can solve real world problems. By developing Makerspaces in our classrooms and libraries we can help to equalize access to technology and opportunity to all our students.


Creativity in the Classroom

My classroom has always been what I would consider a hands-on learning environment but there is a huge different between turning in a digital file and having to produce a working product. Once you experiencing the motivation and engagement students get from "making" something you will be hooked!

We raised over $300 for our local food bank during the 2017-18 holiday season producing school branded mugs and coffee sleeves!
We raised over $400 for our suicide prevention training during the 2018-19 holiday season producing dye sublimated mugs and laser engraved coffee sleeves!

Laser Cutter and Engraver ($5,000 - $25,000)

A laser cutter/Engraver is the ultimate Maker tool! I just learned about the laser in our school this year and now I can’t imagine life without it! The projects my students are producing are amazing! It is fairly easy to use (with a little training and experimentation). The downside to these wonderful machines is they are relatively expensive and require with a filter or exterior venting. I started by having my students design Key Tag and the next quarter we made holiday ornaments using this guide to preparing our art for the laser.

Automata Examples

Vinyl Cutter ($500-$2000)

Designing vinyl cut stickers is easy and sooooo much fun. This is one of the first projects we do in my Intro to Digital Media class. This is a fantastic way to engage your students in learning to design vector graphics in Illustrator. Here are my Illustrator Sticker Tutorials. Here is my sticker unit we tried this year.

  • Hardware: Roland GS-24 - 24" wide rolls for high volume or the Cricut Maker or Silhouette Cameo for small projects.
  • Software: Roland Cut Studio + Adobe Illustrator plugin
  • Vinyl comes in indoor (you can peel it back off), outdoor (you can't) and heat transfer (for putting on clothing). Short article.
  • Transfer Tape: This is what you use to get the sticker onto the object. Stick with the medium tack.
  • Weeding Tools: These are pointy tools for weeding the vinyl you don't want. Push pins work or you can talk with your local dentist about their used tools.
  • Blades: These come in 45 and 60 degree. Plan on replacing them so purchase a couple sets since they are cheap. Article on blades.
  • Storage: I made a vinyl rack out of 2" PVC pipe that works great and cost $20
  • Alternatives: Cricut or Silhouette Cameo- these cutters will do a variety of materials at ~$400! It will also cut paper and cloth!
  • Lessons Learned: Embrace the mistakes you and your students will make! These can be the best learning opportunities and will only cost you a few cents in vinyl. Fix the issue and re-cut.
Student Examples

Custom Apparel using Heat Transfer Vinyl, designed using Photoshop and Adobe Spark Post

3D Carver ($2500)

Desktop CNC Machine: Carvey by Inventables

We found the funding for our 3D carver from a Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation grant. Here is the grant summary. "In preparation for the new Mount Si High School, we are exploring hands-on tools that will allow our students to use their design, engineering and marketing skills to make products and prepare for careers in the design and digital fabrication industry. The Carvey is a fully-enclosed desktop CNC machine that makes 3D carving clean, quiet, and safe. It comes with free web-based software that is accessible to students of all ages and abilities. The Carvey is the perfect combination of STEAM/STEM and portability so multiple programs at Mount Si will be able to take advantage of this valuable resource."

  • Hardware: The Carvey by inventables is a desktop (small and enclosed) CNC machine.
  • Software: One of the cool parts is that it uses free/online software called Easel so kids can design anywhere. You can also import images (drawings) and SVG (vector files from Illustrator).
  • Consumables: You can use all sorts of plastics, metals and wood products. I have found the most success carving wood. My favorite material is 1/4 in poplar from the local hardware store. It comes in 4 foot lengths.
  • Bits: I basically use three primary bits (1/8, 1/16 and 1/32). These come in upcut for plastics and downcut for wood. Here is a good article/video on the subject.
  • Other Tools: I have purchased a dremel tool, hand sander, tape measure and often run down to the shop to use the chop saw.
  • Lessons Learned: The 1/32 and 1/16 in bits can break easily so monitor the depth of the cuts. We usually use a two bit cut process and try to start with an 1/8 bit to cut down on carving time and wear/tear on the more fragile bits.
  • Ornament Project: This was our first project and it was a great learning experience. We started with acrylic which isn't the easiest material to work with and then transitions into wooden ornaments.
  • Table Decorations Project: Since the schools foundation provided us with the funding for the Carvey we produced a variety of table decorations for their annual luncheon.
  • 3D Carving Challenge: This was a super fun class challenge that combined all the students in our three media tracks (graphic design, film, animation) working together to design and promote a product they prototyped using the 3D Carver. Example

Dye Sublimation ($500-$2000)

This is a system of tools that starts with a dye sublimation printer. As with most printers, the ink is not cheap! Once you print with the special ink on special dye sub paper, then you need a heat press and these come in different shapes and sizes. You can make a tons of cool things that can be sold in your student store (branded dog tags, key chains, shirts, phone cases, license plates). We have also had success with producing plaques for various groups around the school.

  • Hardware: Our dye sublimation system starts with the printer and a heat press. Here are a couple examples: Sawgrass Virtuouso 800 printer and a heat press. We recently added a mug press. My local contact is: JVH Technical LLC - www.jvhtech.com - johnjvhtech@gmail.com (he sells Epson options)
  • Software: Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, printer drivers (this will automatically flip your art so it is not backwards when you print it!)
  • Supplies: Paper (you need special paper), ink, blanks - here are tons of cool things to print. Make sure to purchase some heat tape and the spray for shirts. We also keep a supply of butcher paper on hand to put on top and bottom in the heat press.
  • Storage: I purchased a couple sets of plastic drawers and use the label maker to make it easier to find things.
  • Lessons Learned: We printed a bunch of things backwards before we started using the print driver. We now usually print a black and white draft on our standard printer to test size.
  • Military Challenge Coin Project: We designed coins for each branch of the military and will present them to students that graduate with a signed committment to serving in the military.
  • Mugs for Suicide Prevention: Our graphic design students partnered with the Key Club and Suicide Prevention team to raise over $400 for additional training throughout our district.
Student Examples

King County Library System

I had the opportunity to work with the King County Library System to develop their Maker program called ideaX. They have both a dedicated Makerspace in one branch and then a wide variety of Maker Kits in the form of totes with all the materials you need to create a "Pop Up Makerspace" in any of their libraries. Their goal is to give people a "snapshot" of making to get them started in the process. All the kits include all the consumables needed and a notebook with curriculum, templates and supply checklists.

Arts Maker Kits

  • Video: This consists of a Blackmagic camera, two lenses, tripod, laptop with Adobe Premiere Pro
  • Audio: Ableton Push 2, headphones & speakers, laptop, cords and connectors. The dedicated makerspace has a sound booth with a audio recording and keyboard setup. Fruity loops is a great music creation tool. If you have an iPad you can't beat Garage Band.
  • 3D Printing (in the dedicated space) and 3D Pens (for the pop-ups): I was so excited about playing with the 3Doodler pens that I had to go out and purchase one for myself! This are so fun my wife and daughter immediately claimed it and now I need to order more plastic!
  • Drawing/Painting: They have water color and acrylic painting kits as well as a drawing kit.
  • Fiber Arts: They are working on developing a sewing kit, knitting and even incorporating LED technology into clothing! The sewing machines will be at the dedicated space and were donated by a local sewing machine store.
  • Cricut: This kit allows them to offer cutting of vinyl, paper or cloth.
  • Laser Cutter/Engraver: This device requires ventilation and is not portable so it lives at the dedicated makerspace. There are new desktop versions of this type of device that I am excited to play with, like the GlowForge.


  • Micro Controllers: They are using the Arduino kits for the older groups. For the younger kids they use the Makey Makey and Little Bits.
  • Micro Computers: They are using the Raspberry Pi for this area.
  • Robotics: They are using the Lego Mindstorm kits. The 31313 for individuals and 45544 core set for groups. They are also playing around with the Cubelets blocks but haven't built kits for them yet.

Designing a Makerspace

We are in the process of building a new high school. Part of this process have been visiting schools and libraries that are currently running Makerspaces. The following is the research that we have found.

  • Eastside Prep is a middle/high school in the Puget Sound region that has developed an amazing program. Here are my notes and photographs of the space.
  • We are designing two Makerspaces with different goals.
  • Media Center Makerspace: This space is designed for student drop-ins, class check-out and our after school Makers Club. It will be modeled off the King County Library System noted above. We hope to include kits in the form of Totes that can be checked out to teachers for a deeper dive in their classrooms. *My classroom and video studio will open into the Media Center so I am excited for my students to access this area. All the tools in my current classroom listed above will move to this new space.
  • CTE Makerspace: We will have the traditional wood shop and metal shop, but sandwiched in between will be our new CTE Makerspace. It will have a wall of 3D printers (Ultimaker 3), laser cutter, engraver, large CNC machine in the wood shop, and tons of hand tools. There will also be a "Collaboration space just outside these three rooms that contains a large format printer and presentation/meeting space. The robotics field will be sandwiched into one of these areas.
  • Power will be a primary concern. We plan to run power, air compression, ventilation and networking in tracks in the ceiling.
  • Storage: We are currently working on storage solutions that will work for multiple teachers. These will include totes, rolling tool racks and locking cabinets. These storage containers and hand tools will be color coded for each program in an effort to keep thing organized.
  • Furniture: We plan to have rolling/locking work tables and stools.

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Design Software

  • Adobe Illustrator: This application is perfectly designed to create vector graphics (precision/scaleable images) that can be used in cutting machines like vinyl cutters, laser cutter/engravers, and CNC machines.
  • Inkscape: This is a free vector graphic design software application.
  • Corel Draw: This application is great for creating vectors for the laser and is featured in many of the tutorials you see on designing for a laser.
  • Autodesk: Autodesk Inventor is the full featured software our high school is planning to use for our 3D design tool. If you are working with younger students or just want to get someone started with 3D design quicker they also offer Tinkercad which is a free/online tool. Our 3D printers also uses Ultimaker Cura.
  • Easel is a web-based software platform that allows you to design and carve from a single, simple program. This is the software that controls the Carvey 3D carving machine from Inventables.

Online Production and Reselling Resources

  • Shapeways: 3D Printing and marketplace. Users can have objects printed in over 55 materials and finishes, these include: plastics, precious metals, steel and food-safe ceramics, which were discontinued and have been replaced by porcelain materials.
  • Voodoo Manufacturing: Print a single design or a whole production run.
  • Etsy: Etsy is the global marketplace for unique and creative goods. It’s home to a universe of special, extraordinary items, from unique handcrafted pieces to vintage treasures.
  • Thingiverse: MakerBot's Thingiverse is a thriving design community for discovering, making, and sharing 3D printable things. As the world's largest 3D printing community, we believe that everyone should be encouraged to create and remix 3D things, no matter their technical expertise or previous experience. In the spirit of maintaining an open platform, all designs are encouraged to be licensed under a Creative Commons license, meaning that anyone can use or alter any design.
  • MyMiniFactory is a website for the free sharing of 3D printable files. The platform is fully curated, which means that every object available on the site has been previously test printed on desktop FDM 3D printers.
  • Instructables is a cool website originally built to document the innovation taking place at the MIT Media Lab. It has grown into an activity community of makers sharing classes, contest and projects. As a teacher you can request a free "premium" account.

Funding Sources

There are two types of funding: Startup cost and On-going cost of supplies and maintenance.

Startup Cost Solutions

  • School Based: Our PTSA has classroom mini grants of up to $500. Our ASB is often a great source of funding as long as the tools will be available to all students through the media center.
  • District Based: Our CTE department has provided much of the tools we need to get our Makerspace off the ground. As I mentioned earlier, our schools foundation provided the funding for our 3D carver.
  • Community Based: There are a variety of community based businesses and community organizations that we have worked with over the years. We hope to get their support to purchase or donate the tools we need.
  • DonorsChoose: Teachers all over the US get help bringing their classroom dreams to life with this great organization. Here is the edutopia "Big List of Educational Grants"
  • Corporate Grants: Many corporations have grant opportunities and matching donation programs. Start local and then broaden your search for these funding sources.

On-going Cost

  • School Based: Our DECA program is working with my design students to produce personalized products and the profits are split between the programs.
  • Community Based: We have worked with local businesses and community organizations like Rotary, Kiwanis and the Senior Center to produce a variety of digital products (videos, logos, T-shirts, posters). Now we hope to use our desktop fabrication tools to produce real products for them.
  • Fee Based: Some of our classes require a course fee that can be used to offset some of the materials costs. We are also considering opening the Makerspace up to the public for workshops that could generate some funding.
  • Mount Si Merch: My design kids have setup a website to help fundraise.
Sentinel High School

Design Thinking

I encourage you to read this article "What is Design Thinking and Why Is It So Popular?". Or you could go right to the source with the Stanford Design Schools Crash Course on Design Thinking.

Books and Articles

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Created By
Joe Dockery

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