You may know Nicholas Provenzano better as The Nerdy Teacher. He is a Picademy graduate and a most excellent teacher who has perfected the art of creating a learner-friendly makerspace for the Pi-curious. We asked him for some tips to help people who are thinking about building their own spaces for local people to gather, make stuff, share their projects, and learn from others.
Here is what Nerdy Nicholas had to say…
1. Find a space
One of the most important things about creating a makerspace is the “space” part. The space can be as large or as small as you want: it really depends on the number of people you expect to use it, and the types of projects you intend to build. It could be anything from a small crafting space to a large metal shop. It’s a good idea to source a space that can be flexible, to allow for changes in its use over time. In schools, this could be a dedicated room or part of a library space. In communities, community centres and public libraries are great starting points to build makerspaces, so reach out and see if they would be interested in loaning a space to a bunch of creative makers.
2. Source your tools
Which tools you need depends on the kind of making you want to happen in your space, and there are different ways to go about getting these tools. The first is through donations from the community; local businesses may recently have upgraded their own tools and be looking to offload their old ones. These can be perfect for a new makerspace looking to begin their journey with high-quality kit they wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise.
Another place to check is larger chain retailers, such as Costco and bigger supermarkets, as they often have programs that facilitate donations to schools and community organisations. We were able to get donations from both businesses and local community members. The most important thing to do is ask; the worst they can say is no and, more often than not, people want to help — they just don’t know where to find the right people to support.
3. Find ideas and support for projects
It can be tough to know where to get started with offering suggestions and support to makerspace members who are excited to learn but are not sure where to begin. There are some wonderful resources that are worth exploring and sharing that can inspire the makers in your space. I always send students I’m supporting in a school setting to the education-focused pages offered by the Raspberry Pi Foundation and Adafruit.
For those in makerspaces who don’t wish to engage with material made for kids, Raspberry Pi has a slew of tutorials aimed at all abilities — they walk you through how to build everything from a smart mirror to a USB webcam, and a flight tracker to an Iron Man Arc Reactor. I also like Instructables.com because it is filled with just about every project imaginable.
4. Share, share, and share again
When you have things up and running, with people creating amazing things, get the word out there! Share on social media, post to local community boards, and shout it from the rooftops so that everyone can hear and see what’s going on at your space. The more people know about it, the easier it will be to grow your space and attract the support you need.
Getting started with a makerspace can be a long and difficult process, but committing to creating a space whose sole purpose is to foster creativity and then following that commitment through is one of the most rewarding experiences. I have been lucky to have supported the growth of makerspaces in not just my school but other schools across the United States, and hearing the stories about the cool projects that students are creating as part of their learning journey always puts a smile on my face. If you have any questions about how to get started on your makerspace journey, don’t hesitate to send me a message. Check me out on the socials @TheNerdyTeacher if you want to connect.