Montgomery Middle School in Cajon Valley Union School District transformed an ordinary wood shop class into a state of the art Makerspace Lab. Under the leadership of teacher Emmy Rodgers, MMS’ program teaches students concepts of design and allows them to create products that satisfy needs and solve problems.
The Makerspace Lab
The Maker Lab gives students opportunity to learn principles of design and allows them to engage in hands-on problem solving. The goal of the class is to understanding the needs of a customer and innovate to satisfy that need. For instance, the students designed an air-propelled car for NASCAR, should, in the future, petroleum fuel be banned. They 3D printed jewelry cases for customers wishing to hide valuables in their homes. They also created light pedestals to act as night-lights for young children and designed a scale model of an original skate park.
The students work using technology that is on the forefront of innovation. They use the same design program, Sketch Up, as engineers and architects in the professional world. Students also use microcontrollers called Arduinos, used in robotics and sensory devices, to create interactive electronic devices. Rodgers teaches the students the basics of the technology and then allows them to create. Students use the skills they learn to understand problems and create solutions.
Beyond the Lab
In addition to learning new technologies, students grasp the concepts of project management, teamwork, and collaboration through their work in the Maker Lab. They gain vital experience that can be translated into any profession. Maker Lab students practice critical thinking, creativity, and communication, applying these skills in complex situations. The Lab opens up the opportunity for student growth both technologically and personally
Rodgers notes that many of the concepts used in the Maker Lab relate to those learned in other classes. The students are able to take the information from a math class and apply it to a real problem in the Lab. Students also gain a much-needed boost of self-confidence through successes in the Lab that translate into success in school. Rodgers says that other teachers at Montgomery Middle School notice a greater depth of questioning by students who have participated in the Maker Lab. The Lab not only allows students to innovate but also gives them the determination to prosper in all of their classes.
A Makerspace Lab sounds like a daunting task at first, but with the right leadership and mentality, it can be a tangible program at any school. Rodgers highlights innovation, creativity, and student choice as the pillars of a successful Maker Lab. She says this class utilizes technology to tap into the creative mind of the student, allowing them to understand a problem and then find a solution. It is about understanding how something works and then taking it to the next level. It is about being an innovator.
[Special thanks to Emmy Rodgers, who provided information on the Makerspace Lab]