Simultaneous to the inception of makerspaces in schools has been the purchase of 3D printers. Often, the purchase and placement of equipment like the 3D printer are the only concepts involved in a school makerspace. While 3D printers are a fantastic tool when they are used to support the design process and creation of prototypes, they are seldom used in that manner. All too often, we refer to a space with a 3D printer as a STEM classroom, when students are simply printing from a library of pre-existing, printable designs.
A successful, STEM-centered makerspace embodies engineering design, encourages innovation and promotes student exploration. Teachers and administrators who are tasked with integrating STEM into a makerspace should ask themselves the following questions as they create curriculum and support instruction:
- Are students involved in project based learning experiences?
- Are students creating authentic designs while utilizing equipment?
- Is the design process being implemented to support project creation?
- Is research a significant part of the process?
- Are students working collaboratively?
- Is time provided to redesign, allowing students to embrace failure?