Maker Spaces – Why They Matter to CTE

MakerSpace NLSC Stuff
Families engage at the makerspace at SkillsUSA’s latest National Skills Competition. Folks of all ages made everything from packaging to race cars.

A big space with stuff to get a fun job done. The job might be mechanical, electrical, or even digital or aesthetic arts. The space might consist of tools, electrical equipment, 3D printers, robotic equipment, or paints. What is it? IT is a “makerspace”, sometimes called a “hackerspace” or “Fab Lab”.

According to Popular Science magazine, as of 2016 there were over 480 makerspaces active and in the United States. This is roughly the same as the growth of makerspaces in Europe, and in line with growth worldwide. This represents a 1400% (14 times) increase from 2006 – 14x growth in 10 years! Interestingly, this parallels the growth in interest of career technical education (CTE) in the US. How many people are involved? This from the “Extension” website:

“The Atmel Corporation, a worldwide leader in the design and manufacture of microcontrollers, has calculated that there are approximately 135 million adult Makers in the United States. This is over half (57 percent) the American population 18+ and does not include the millions of children and teenagers who are active in STEM projects through science fairs, robotics teams and tinkering in their basements.”

WOW!!! and … what is driving this?

Maker Banner NSCF17
Signs like these are becoming more and more common given the 14x increase in makerspaces since 2006!

One hypothesis, mine, is that millenials are a vastly different breed, and are interested in becoming relevant doers, not trivial fact-monsters! Growing up with the knowledge of the world at their fingertips, they can find facts and see “how to” with ease. It is applying, building, analyzing and synthesizing that turn them on!

For CTE this is a critical trend because hands-on practice and mastery are important in fields like phlebotomy (drawing blood) and manufacturing. Spaces like these also illustrate how manufacturing in particular has changed and become more inexpensive and more hi tech.

So, this is a “kick off” to a topic I will come back to. For an older article that I posted on the Learning Liftoff blog, feel free to visit here. It is more than a way that CTE at schools like a K12 Destinations Academy can be done “hands-on” if the courses are virtual and online. It is a grass roots movement not that different from my grandpap tinkering with my mother’s 1961 red Corvair decades ago. But it now resonates with the DNA of an up and coming generation of doers who want to get things done and create uniquely. How will this change work in the balance of the 21st century? or design? or Saturday afternoons? I would love to hear your ideas! Let’s get to work!

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