We’ve been finding more and more reports of gender imbalances in makerspaces. This is something we’ve been conscious of since we built our space, so we’ve taken various approaches to attempt to create a space that’s inviting to all genders and non-binary folks.
- Mixture of technologies- Our makerspace contains equipment that has been traditionally gendered male, such as the soldering station, 3D scanners, 3D printers, as well as those that have been traditionally gendered female, such as the sewing machine, quilting tools, and the Silhouette Cameo electronic cutter (which is commonly used as a scrapbooking tool). Our hope has been that by having all of this equipment in the same inclusive space, those who may have been reluctant to use something they may have originally thought wasn’t for them, will realize that these are tools for everyone.
- Mixture of making- While we are big fans of 3D printing- electronic technology-assisted making is not the only kind that happens in our space. We have a table of painting supplies right by the entry of the space, coloring and drawing supplies on a cart outside the space, as well as collage supplies available to use.
- Mixture of people- Our space and the student makerspace club are led by people with a mixture of gender identities.
- Mixture of academic disciplines- We try really hard to include all academic areas of study when reaching out to faculty and students to use our makerspace. We’ve worked with a pretty wide range of courses and are actively pursuing more.
- Mixture of decor- It might sound trivial to some, but the look of a space can create a gendered feel. We’ve attempted to add signage and decorations that are welcoming to all and that represent a wide range of tastes and visual preferences.
We’re going to try harder to bring in more academic disciplines- especially those that do not traditionally work with technologies. We also plan to reach out to diversity-oriented student organizations and committees. In regard to makerspace tools and supplies, we plan to work with more fiber arts (including yarn crafts and 3D printing on fabrics) and come up with a wide variety of examples for use when we get our laser cutter.
“Maker Culture Has a ‘Deeply Unsettling’ Gender Problem” by Stephen Noonoo
“An Exploration of Women’s Engagement in Makerspaces” by Vanessa Bean
Students experiencing the VR video.
To gain a better understanding of life in a refugee camp, Professor Lavanya Proctor brought her Anthropology of South Asia students to the makerspace to experience a virtual reality video. The video entitled, I Am Rohingya, follows a woman named Jamalida as she walks through the refugee camp in which her family lives. The following is the description on Vimeo:
In this immersive VR film by Contrast VR and AJ+, ride with Jamalida around the crowded camp, accompany her inside her tiny home, sit down in the narrow streets with her sons as they play and feel what’s it like to be a refugee stranded in a foreign land.
Prior to coming to the makerspace, students were instructed to download the Vimeo app on their smartphones. Additional smartphones were provided in case students did not have their own. Cardboard VR headsets provided a low-cost, and low-tech way to allow students to immerse themselves in a new surrounding and feel what daily life is like for people living in refugee camps.
While watching the video, students could use audio headsets to block out other sounds and listen at a comfortable volume. They could move through the space and rotate to explore the camp. The VR experience allowed students to immerse themselves much more than passively watching a video. Immersive VR videos like I Am Rohingya give students an opportunity to experience powerful stories, and at between $8-$15, cardboard VR headsets offer a cost-effective way to do this.
A while back, we shared some of the awesome projects the Innovation and Entrepreneurship students created as their final projects. Another one of the projects combined innovation and technology with learning and sustainability. The students called it Roll the Rot, a playful way to learn about composting and STEM. The compost bin would be used along with a curriculum to teach kids about composting. The dodecahedron (12-sided die, or D12) shape, would make it fun for kids to roll around to aerate the compost. When in the early prototyping stage, the students were able to prototype a small-scale model using the 3D printer. A large to-scale prototype was created with the help of a local plastics company.
Early 3D printed prototype
Final molded prototype
Gravitational potential well
For the last 3 years, Professor Deanna Donohoue has included 3D printers with her instrumental analysis chemistry course. In addition to 3D printers, students use other innovative tools such as Arduinos. For the 3D printing portion, students receive training and access to the space and are instructed to print a chemistry-related object from the Journal of Chemical Education, the NIH 3D print exchange, or a general 3D object repository like Thingiverse.
After completing a print, students answer the following questions:
- How can we use 3D printers with other instruments or instrument development?
- Draw a black box model of the 3D printer. Include the computer and steps involved on the computer.
- Find an application of 3D printing that you think is interesting.
- Find a scientific publication which uses an instrument made with a 3D printer, or has parts from a 3D printer.
The students are encouraged to think of the printers as they would any other laboratory tool or equipment. This approach as a scientific instrument gives the students beneficial insight and understanding when it comes to troubleshooting. Professor Donohoue described these printers as exciting tools to allow for citizen science as well as creating inexpensive custom tools that allow for previously cost-prohibitive field work.