#1StudentNWI: East Chicago Central High School’s new “Makerspace”

#1StudentNWI: East Chicago Central High School’s new “Makerspace”

Recently, East Chicago Central High School’s administration created a brand-new learning space for teachers and students. The new area, which was named as “Makerspace,” is packed with exciting new technology open to all of the school's students and teachers.

Makerspace is a new area of the school that has been converted into a learning center where students can gather together and create using brand new tools. 

A team of school administrators designed Makerspace with 1st Maker Space, a company that partners with schools and communities to design and construct custom learning centers.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) Director Maren Lee was part of the team that designed the space. She shared her opinion on how it adds to the school’s learning environment and improves the students’ education. 

“Many of our students learn best through hands-on activities and projects. This space allows them to explore and work with new technology and tools related to STEM,” said Lee.

Lee also discussed how it improves the students’ critical-thinking and problem-solving skills with activities across different subject areas. Her favorite part of Makerspace has been seeing students have the opportunity to put its resources to use. 

“For example, our Project Lead the Way (PLTW) students have spent time coming up with their own ideas for projects using the 3-D printers. Their curiosity and excitement has been awesome to see” Lee remarked.

The introduction of new equipment such as 3-D Printers, a laser cutter/engraver, and STEM kits provides students with tools that will inspire innovation. It can also be implemented into a teacher’s curriculum to enhance students' learning. Along with the new technology, Makerspace was built in one of the school’s old labs, offering plenty of room for new custom tables and stools. 

“The space allows for students to move around the classroom and use all the equipment and tools,” said Lee.  

According to Lee, Makerspace was added to the school to specifically increase students’ STEM education.

“This space allows students to learn and explore with a hands-on approach,” Lee said. “We want all students, no matter what grade or subject, to have STEM integrated in their classes.” 

Makerspace and its tools also give students STEM exposure that can benefit them throughout their careers and later in life.

“Many projected job openings are in STEM-fields,” Lee said. “So this space will help students become college and career ready.”

CTE and Engineering Teach Robert Holzhauser emphasized the opportunities for creativity to thrive in the new space.

“Makerspace is intended to be an environment that will allow students to develop the maker mindset by encouraging the creation of ‘stuff.’ That stuff can really be anything, from electronics, to wood or plastic models, machines, robots, t-shirts, anything,” said Holzhauser.  

Holzhauser hopes that Makerspace will encourage the exploration of the creative and curious nature that most of us possess. Additionally, he wants it to become a location in the building that everyone wants to come and be a part of. 

Holzhauser also shared that some students have already had the chance to tinker with the space's new machinery. 

“The engineering and manufacturing classes have already been experimenting with the 3-D printers. They’re making all kinds of new and unique items including rings, mechanical parts for small machines, ID holders, desktop organizers, catapults, miniature sculptures, frog dissection kits, phone mounts, and so much more,” said Holzhauser.

“My favorite aspects of the space are easily the new technologies that we have recently received: three Flashforge Guider II 3-D printers and a 100W CO2 Laser Engraver,” said Holzhauser. 

As for the computer science students, CTE and Computer Science Teacher Cheryl McGee sees Makerspace as an imagination station. 

“Ultimately, I think it will be an opportunity for students to be really creative while enhancing their coding skills to create games, solve puzzles, command robots to perform certain functions, develop code to control drones, or whatever ideas they dream up,” McGee said.

As reported by McGee, the computer science elements of Makerspace are still underway. 

“Hopefully, the equipment will be delivered before the end of this school year so that I can get student feedback. It is the student feedback that will drive what we include in Makerspace,” McGee said. “The fact that it will be student-centered is my favorite aspect of the space.”