MakerSpace Blog: New Year, New Beginnings

By September 13, 2023No Comments

Howdy friends! Welcome to the Acera MakerSpace’s home on the web. I’m your host, Alison Earnhart — MakerSpace Maven and Science & Engineering specialist at the Acera School. This is the first of many blog posts keeping the Acera community abreast of the goings-on in our wonderful space for Art, Design, Engineering, Science, Woodworking, and more! It’s also a place where I’ll be sharing updates on the courses that I teach throughout the school.

Silly photo of Alison, MakerSpace Maven, posing in front of the electronics wall.

It’s me, Alison! I’m pretty excited about our MakerSpace!

MakerSpace: The Physical Space

This year back in January, I was hired to teach and also to give our dear MakerSpace a much needed facelift. As usually happens in a space that is used commonly by many enthusiastic folks who are also very busy (all our fine teachers at Acera!), things were getting a little…disorganized. Over the coming months, I spent a good deal of time taking inventory of our materials, sorting, cleaning, reorganizing, and imagining new possibilities for our space. Beginning this school year, I’m proud to present a very fresh look in our MakerSpace, almost doubling the amount of storage and student work space that was previously available.

Many shelves full of clear plastic bins of makerspace materials.

Paint, mirrors, textiles, oh my! We’ve got it all in our Art & Design Studio.

In the corner near the student bathrooms, we have a vast shelving space for our Art & Design Studio. Items are stored in clear plastic bins with lids (to keep out the dust from the wood shop) and cataloged in a spreadsheet that mimics the physical location of each item on the shelf for easy finding. We’ve got all kinds of engaging kits and materials ranging from beading and jewelry making to tools for crochet and embroidery. Speaking of sewing, our old “Sewing Corner” in the Commons has now been absorbed into the Art & Design Studio, making more room for Mr. Chuck’s musical equipment. Now in the Art & Design Studio, we have sewing machines, irons and ironing boards, and a wide array of fabrics and materials for creating anything our students can imagine.



Opposite the Art & Design Studio and next to the Wood Shop, we have our MakerSpace. Yes, it’s all a “Makerspace”, but we’ve got special names for the different areas in the Acera InnoLab. Here’s the rundown: the whole giant space is officially called the Acera Innovation Lab. Within this large open space in our school, we have the Woodshop, the Art & Design Studio, and the MakerSpace. By using these terms, we can differentiate space for scheduling and use. For example, Ms. Camila might be teaching a painting class in the Art & Design studio while I’m running an electronics class in the MakerSpace while Mr. Josh is teaching Boatbuilding in the Wood Shop. It can get pretty busy in here sometimes!

Anyway, I’m particularly proud of the new MakerSpace, as there were SO MANY materials to organize. We now have a whole wall dedicated to a huge variety of making tools and materials (balloons, cutting mats, cardstock, marbles, glue guns, cardboard tubes…. the list is HUGE) as well as reserved storage space for student projects. As the year goes on, these shelves will get filled with students IMP projects and other classroom materials. Opposite this wall, we have our electronics nook, which is basically my home now. With two walk-up-and-use soldering stations, hundreds of electronics components, and literal piles of Arduinos and other microcontrollers, we’re set up to empower any student to create the stuff of their dreams.

MakerSpace: The Classes

We are teaching SO MUCH STUFF in our whole InnoLab this trimester. Between upperschool electives, math classes, Creativity Wednesday stations, and after school workshops, the space is always buzzing with joyful activity and enthusiastic making. As I type this, Mr. Adam is teaching Basic Woodworking in the Wood Shop while Mr. Danny is working with students in his Creative Computing session in the Art & Design studio. Computing in an art studio? Heck yeah! We don’t separate subjects into individual silos — we believe and live STEAM every day. Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics naturally occur together, and we embrace the mix of fine arts, science, industrial tools, handicrafts, computing, and more.

This Trimester, I’m particularly excited to present my new course: MakerSpace Engineering. This is something that has been brewing in my head since I arrived, and is a continuation of the engineering pedagogy I’ve been working on for the last decade both in Austin, Texas and at Tufts University Center for Engineering Education and Outreach. My goal for this school is to grow an institution of engineering and making — a culture of student leadership and peer-teaching that is so well established that it transcends the presence of any particular staff member. I want to start a system that is so strong and robust, alumni who return many years from now will still see the fruits of their labor alive and at work.

This course is meant to act as a runway for students looking to quickly level up their skills of makerspace engineering, specializing in tools such as our laser cutter, 3D printers, electronics and microcontrollers, and more. On top of that, I want to provide a robust foundation in the engineering habits of mind including joyful curiosity and self-teaching, generous peer assistance and teamwork, persistence in the face of failure, appreciation for thorough documentation, and resourcefulness. After taking this course, students will be prepared to be school-wide leaders not just in maintaining and using our high tech equipment, but also in assisting their peers in navigating projects from the simplest ask (“Hey, can you help me with this holiday ornament I’m trying to make for my grandpa?”) all the way up to the most major IMP projects and beyond. As the course continues to be taught in future trimesters and years, some of these students will be asked to return as teaching assistants to help guide and educate the next set of Acera Makers.