What I Hope To See in the New Makerspace

written by: Thomas W. Gaskill Jr., Science Teacher and Robotics Coach

Eagle Hill's new STEM Building to provide exciting opportunities.
Science Education has morphed from finding out what has been accomplished in science, toward the modern approach of doing science through new pedagogical techniques like modeling instruction. Science isn’t just a noun, representing a body of knowledge, but a verb, a means of gaining information though scientific methods. Complimenting this new approach to science are new methods in technology education. Not learning about what people have done and accomplished through using science to solve problems, but doing it. This calls for a new educational arena with space, materials and equipment to support the exploration into product development and all its attendant technology, mechanical and material science, manufacturing techniques, and use of specific tools. This also naturally lends itself to the entrepreneurship side of product development and marketing.

In anticipation of the opening of our STEM building in September 2019, which will include new makerspaces, we are redeveloping classes and reimagining opportunities that might now exist in the new space. Below I offer a sampling of the many courses that we anticipate offering to our students. In addition, many courses, not only in science, but other areas of study will incorporate more technology into their curricula and use the makerspace to execute these objectives.

Proposal to Product - This six term course explores the path from idea to final product through product design, marketing strategies, production design, material science, and manufacturing processes. Throughout the course, concepts presented are applied to the creation and development of a student’s original design, marketing plan, production plan, and manufactured prototype of their product.

IB Design Technology – This is a new International Baccalaureate offering which brings a student through product design, marketing strategies, production design, material science, and manufacturing processes. Essentially an expanded version of the Proposal to Product class, again throughout the course, concepts presented are applied to the creation and development of a student’s original design, marketing plan, production plan, and manufactured prototype of their product.

Introduction to Electronics - This three term course will introduce the student to the nature and function of individual electronic components and their interactions with one another in circuits, reading schematics, performing circuit analysis, soldering skills, and the techniques for working with electronic circuits.  Instruction is mainly through the building of circuits with directed questions throughout as to the function and interaction of components.

CAD/CAM – In this three term course, students learn to use software to design products and then use CNC machines to produce them. 3D printing, laser etching and cutting, CNC milling are explored using Autodesk Inventor (or Solidworks).

Museum Exhibit – In this three term class, students will produce a museum quality display that demonstrates a scientific, technologic, sociologic, historical or other principle. This will be displayed on campus for a limited engagement and then offered to local schools or museums for temporary or permanent exhibition.

Advanced Robotics and Introduction to Robotics – Two courses, a one term introductory course focusing on programming and an advanced course focusing on mechanical systems or advanced programming. The advanced course can be taken repeatedly as the projects are self-directed and mentored by the instructor. Both use the VEX EDR robotics platform and either Robot C or the VEX Coding Studio software.

Technology Design Challenge – This one term course involves the incorporation of science in technology through the design and building of one or more projects. Projects themes are rotated so students can take this course repeatedly for new experiences. In the past, blue man group style instruments, cardboard boats, cardboard chairs, medieval siege weapons, softball pitching machines, mobiles, and mousetrap powered boats and cars have been produced. With our new facilities, many more options are available to us.

Art of Science – In this one term class, students will produce a scientifically accurate model or artwork that will become part of a collection to be displayed on campus or used in classes. In the past, students have made molecular models, kaleidoscopes, math equations as art, and protein ribbon models.

Physics of Music – In this one term class, students will learn about the mathematics of the chromatic scale and the physics of harmonic resonance through the building of a cigar box guitar or cigar box ukulele.

Material Science: Metals – In this one term course, students will learn about metallurgy and working with metals. Casting, forging, welding, metalsmithing, and sheet metal fabrication techniques will be explored.

Material Science: Stone – In this one term course, students will learn about properties of natural stone and working with stone. Stone carving, sawing, and cabochon making are included.

jewelry making
Material Science: Jewelry Making – In this one term course, students will learn about materials and techniques through the process of making jewelry items. Metalwork, stonework and other materials will be explored.

Material Science: Textiles – In this 1 term course students will learn about the materials and techniques for working with textiles. Sewing, embroidery, and knitting by hand and machine, weaving, and leatherwork may be explored.

Material Science: Glass – In this 1 term course, students will learn about the material science and techniques for working with glass. Stained glass, slumping, enameling, lamp work and dichroic glass may be explored.

We also hope to offer courses with visiting artists or entrepreneurs much like our STAR artist in residence program. The computer science department has 20 course offerings proposed, many of which support makerspace initiatives and the development of student skills in coding in various languages. We hope to develop courses enhancing entrepreneurial and business education as well.

We expect that students will also be able to use this space for clubs that require building space. These might include model building, RC cars or drones or rocketry. The Pioneer Robotics Team will be able to use the space to build and test their competition robot designs. Weekend activities can include much more expansive projects, from stained glass, jewelry making, model building, or whatever independent project a student would like to work on. If faculty who want to participate are able to coordinate weekend duties we could have the makerspace open regularly with activities as varied as faculty skills allow from crafting to welding.

Community makerspaces are often used by people who want to prototype or make custom products or do small manufacturing runs but can’t afford the space or tools to do so. Once we establish our own needs for the facility, the Hardwick community may be able to benefit in the off hours. We may even be able to trade their expertise for time for those who would like to share their skills with our students much like with the visiting artist in residence STAR program run through the art department. We may also be able to enhance our outreach education programs with the makerspace facility providing the larger community with skills or enrichment in these areas.

We anticipate having the ability to work with metals, wood, glass, stone, plastic, textile and composite materials. For metals, we will be able to sand cast or lost wax cast small items. We will have a small gas forge for blacksmithing, a MIG welding station, jeweler tools for metalsmithing, and sheet metal fabrication tools. For wood, we have the ability to do rough prototyping with a selection of bench top power tools and hand tools. For stone we have various power and hand tools for carving plus a rock saw, cabochon and faceting machine. We expect to have sewing and knitting machines a loom and leatherworking tools for textile work. We will have a small jewelry kiln useful for enameling, annealing or other processes. There will also be CNC based equipment including a 3D printer, Laser engraver/cutter, and CNC mill. There is also a great assortment of hand tools for all types of materials.

The school already has the ability to do fine and large woodworking, graphic arts and design, photography, ceramics and various fine arts though the arts programs based in the Cultural Center.

We are very excited about the potential of this makerspace to enhance our student’s educational experience with real world applications. We hope our students will enjoy and appreciate this new resource.
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