Category Archives: Advice

Maker Competencies

To help our faculty create assignments that use the makerspace and have easily assessable outcomes, we’ve put together some Maker Competencies.

Click on image to see a larger version of the competencies in Flickr.

ACQUIRING & SHARING SKILLS:

  • Learns new equipment or technology and is able to use with minimal supervision
  • Exhibits a strong enough grasp of new skills to assist peers with newly-acquired knowledge

THINKING CREATIVELY:

  • Applies meaning to projects as tied to coursework
  • Uses abstract thinking to apply a tool or technology in a new way to carry out task
  • Employs creative thinking and problem solving to arrive at end product

ACCOMPLISHING GOALS:

  • Follows multi-step, procedure-based tasks in the correct order
  • Realizes an idea from concept to finished project

RESPECTING SPACE & OTHERS:

  • Uses tools in a safe and respectful manner
  • Demonstrates care and neatness with equipment and shared space
  • Respects copyright and intellectual property, gives credit when appropriate
  • Shows empathy toward others by following rules of the space

We hope these competencies will help makerspace educators, teachers, professors, etc. come up with fun, inspiring, hands-on assignments with outcomes that can be easily assessed!

My Experience With Laser Cutting

By Wenchao Liu

In anticipation of the laser cutter our Makerspace is going to purchase, I decided to write an introductory article about laser cutters. This article is about what laser cutters can or can’t do, when you should use one, and how you can get your hands on one in Appleton.

The first thing you should know about laser cutters is what they can or can’t do. They differ from 3D printers, because they generally can’t generate 3D shapes. However, as the name suggests, they can either cut through or engrave on a variety of materials, including plastics and glass.

When do you choose to use a laser cutter versus a 3D printer? We know that laser cutters can’t generate 3D shapes, but what if you want to create a piece of flat plastic chassis? You can theoretically use either one. That said, laser cutters generally have a bigger bed and takes a lot less time than 3D printers. You just need to buy the plastics yourself!

Where can you find laser cutters in Appleton while waiting for the one Angela promised to get us? There’s one in the Appleton Makerspace, whose website is https://appletonmakerspace.org, and one in the Fox Valley Technical College, whose website is https://www.fvtc.edu/employers/fab-labs. In addition, there are other services you can pay in Appleton. 

Maybe we can only wait until Angela puts one in the library. The reason why it’s been taking so long is that laser cutters generate a lot of heat, so as a result they require special ventilation equipment. We are getting a Glowforge, but their ventilation equipment—Air Filter won’t be available until April 2019. We can only wait!

Gender in Makerspaces

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.

Future goals

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.

Further reading

Maker Culture Has a ‘Deeply Unsettling’ Gender Problem” by Stephen Noonoo

An Exploration of Women’s Engagement in Makerspaces” by Vanessa Bean

Makerspace Updates for Winter Term

Signs with QR code and shortened URL to 3D printer reservation forms and calendars were placed near each printer.

We have a few exciting updates for the makerspace for winter term.

  • Reserving 3D printers: We’ve implemented a much easier method that uses a combination of Google Forms, the add-on Data Director for Forms, and Google Calendar to reserve the 3D printers and display availability. QR codes and shortened URLs placed near each printer are helping students to quickly see what’s available and make reservations.
  • Makerspace Club updates: The student makerspace club has been paired with a child in need of a prosthetic hand through e-Nable and has begun planning the creation of the custom prosthetic.
  • GlowforgeWe’ve placed our order for a Glowforge laser cutter and hope to receive it this summer.
  • Winter term training: Open training sessions are scheduled for Mondays at 2:30 pm and Thursdays at 11 am.
  • New furniture and space reorganization: We’ve moved some stuff around to make student projects in process storage more visible- and we’re trying out stools on wheels for more flexible seating. Let us know what you think!

    Our mini soldering station with the new rolling stool. We may fill the space with these.

    Bookshelf near the makerspace entrance for student projects in process.