In a global marketplace that is rapidly expanding, innovation is the name of the game. As a result, local, state, and national leaders have emphasized the STEM – science, technology, engineering, and math – fields. These disciplines help students develop problem solving skills that have a variety of applications.
As of late, leaders are recognizing the importance of integrating the arts into STEM programming and education, moving from STEM to STEAM. The STEAM approach teaches students how to learn, how to ask questions, how to experiment, and how to create. STEAM offerings help students develop both critical and creative thinking skills.
A makerspace will allow Stanton students and adults alike to hone their STEAM skills. This community-oriented workspace will provide a place for people with common interests – in computers, technology, science, art/electronic art, crafts, sewing, and more – to meet, socialize, and collaborate. It also will fill a gap in after school activities for youth not visiting the Viking Center.
The makerspace should be located in a warehouse that is owned by Farmers Mutual Telephone Company (FMTC). Transforming the building from a warehouse to a community makerspace will further cement FMTC’s position as a community pillar and also will position the FMTC team to give back to the community in an even more direct way by mentoring and teaching youth at the makerspace.
The 7,080 SF warehouse is located just north of Thorn Street between Concord Avenue and Broad Avenue. The makerspace will benefit from this central location near downtown, the other placemaking projects, the school, and the Viking Center, allowing people to weave visits to the makerspace into their regular routines.
A survey of Stanton Community Schools high school students and home school students found the most interest in woodworking, welding, game creation, and robotics or electronics. Not surprisingly, students prioritized having computers in the makerspace, followed by the necessary equipment for the previously mentioned activities. The survey also found a strong desire for both formal classes and one-on-one instruction. Community experts should be leveraged as much as possible to provide this instruction. The complete survey results can be found in Appendix E.
In addition to programming, organizers will need to consider potential partnerships, such as with area school districts and Southwestern Community College. These partnerships will help ease the strain on volunteers and could potentially provide a steady revenue stream.
Stanton Community Schools high school students expressed a keen interest in welding, a sentiment echoed by other area high schoolers. As a result of this interest, in 2013, the Red Oak Community School District and Southwestern Community College established the Welding Technology Career Academy, which is located at the Red Oak Community School District Technical Center.
The programed debuted with the intent to provide high school students with basic welding skills as well as opportunities to operate tools, identify different metals, and interpret blueprints. During the one-year program, students complete a prescribed sequence of welding courses that provide them with 12 credits of college and high school credits. If a student successfully completed the five course sequence, they earn a basic welding certificate from Southwestern.
Stanton students currently have the opportunity to travel to the welding classes, which meet from 8 to 9:30 am Monday through Friday during the traditional academic year.
Details on the Welding Technology Career Academy can be found in Appendix F.
To further supplement revenues, organizers should consider developing a membership program. The program should have different membership levels for different levels of access to the space. Options may include weekend only, weekday only, nights/weekends, and an unlimited option. Day passes and corporate programs should be considered, too.
Additionally, makerspace organizers may opt to explore shared membership opportunities in collaboration with the Viking Center. For example, a current member of the Viking Center could qualify for a reduced membership rate at the makerspace in order to ensure both entities receive significant community support.
Finally, to ensure the makerspace is accessible for everyone, makerspace organizers should offer subsidized memberships. One path to consider is an endowment that is seeded with funds derived from the capital campaign.
The Action Steps
Develop nonprofit to oversee makerspace
Conduct community survey
Design building layout
Makerspace nonprofit, architect, engineers
Using results of community survey and survey of high school students, design building layout. Consider flex space and opportunities for programming growth. Use Grizzly Industrial Workshop Planner (www.grizzly.com/workshopplanner/) as a resource.
Secure necessary capital
Build operational expenses for the first year into the capital campaign as well as the initial equipment investment. Refer to Appendix H for anticipated wood shop costs. Consider establishing a separate maintenance fund. Complete funding roadmap as part of a joint fundraising campaign. Prioritize funding asks.
Complete buildout and prepare for opening
Makerspace nonprofit, architect, engineers
Take project out for bid. Select contractor. Begin construction. Share updates on construction progress frequently, ideally through photos and video. Simultaneously secure instructors for the various courses and determine operating hours. Plan grand opening celebration.