Maker Community

Creating a space for every Maker

Equity, Inclusivity, and the Importance of Community

Making - the first principle of my Maker Manifesto - can be done individually (although it may not be as rewarding or enjoyable). The other three - Sharing, Learning, and Teaching - however, can't be accomplished alone. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a community to develop a Maker.

A community is a group of individuals with a shared interest - in this case Making. It is also a shared perspective, an attitude, and an identity. Making is much more than building or crafting, it is a way of thinking that blends beautifully with and, I believe, is something that can't be realized fully without a community to support it.

Inequity and underrepresentation of marginilized communities (which include women, LGBTQ+, and economically disadvantaged people) persist in STEM fields and STEM education1, 2, 3. STEM has historically been crtiticized for being dominated by white, heterosexual males. Students frequently do not see themselves reflected in the subjects they are learning, are not well-motivated to take advanced STEM classes or pursue STEM fields, and have limited access to resources that could enrich their learning. There is no simple, straight-forward solution to close the gaps we see today. However, Maker Education offers an opportunity to support all students by giving them a chance to investigate subjects in a meaningful way that interests them, break down gender stereotypes and traditional roles, and provide an inclusive community for all.

The general Maker community has itself struggled with diversity and inclusivity, partly because the terms "Making" and "Makers" are very broad and not-well defined, and partly because the movement has not done a great job celebrating the work of Makers of color, women, and LGBTQ+ members. The Maker movement has rightly been criticized that it popularizes Makers who are white, heterosexual males. Sound familiar? Take a moment to peruse the past Make: Magazines. There have only been 10 covers that have featured or co-featured woman, only a few of which occurred in its first 40 volumes. Only one volume has shown a black Maker on its cover.

Fortunately for me, the Maker communities that I am privileged to be a part of have been as diverse and inclusive as they have been educational and enlightening. Each has had an influence on my own perspective of Making - the impact it can have on the learning experience of students, how it can empower marginilized groups, that there is no single definition of the term - nor should there be.

UTeach Maker

Fall 2019 Cohort, UTeach Maker.

UTeach Maker is a micro-credentialing program aimed at enriching the student experience through making. Teachers explore Maker education - learning how to plan and execute Maker activities in their classroom, participating in Maker professional development, working at Maker internships, and connecting with Maker mentors and other fellows.

As a member of UTeach Maker, I participate in monthly Maker cohort meetings, attend workshops, and volunteer at Maker events. Each meeting gave me the opportunity to connect and share with other Makers. Together we learned how we can enhance the learning experience of our students. At weekend workshops we explored new skills and methods that could be applied in, and out of, the classroom. I have used some of these techniques I learned at these workshops to make some of my projects (see these projects for more information).

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Maker Faire

Maker Faire Robot, Austin Maker Faire.

Maker Faire is a gathering for makers - from engineers to artists to scientists. It is a great place to share what you make, see what others are making, and play with some really awesome toys.

In 2019, I presented at the 2nd Annual Regional Maker Education Summit with Juliet Goodfellow (check out her website here). We showcased Maker activites for math and science educators in our workshop Kinetic Sculptures (which developed into this project).

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MakerSpace at Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders

MakerSpace Ribbon Cutting with Impact Austin, Ann Richards School.

Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders is an all-girls school that prepares 6-12th graders with hands-on, project-based learning experiences. Offering unique opportunities for its students, the school places an emphasis on STEM with a rigourous curriculum and pathways, internships, college preparation, and an impressive MakerSpace.

I had the privilege to work at Ann Richards' MakerSpace as an intern under the supervision of my Maker mentor, Oren Connell. In the MakerSpace I supported students in Maker education activities and projects, supervised the use of specialized tools and equipment, and taught safe practices. My favorite projects that I helped support include making animal enrichment toys for the Austin Zoo and building canjos. When we went virtual during COVID, the Making didn't stop. In Oren's digital electronics class we helped students design and prototype electronic devices solving real-world (and sometimes hilarious) problems.

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Stephen F. Austin High School - Academy for Design and Technology

Academy for Design and Technology logo, Austin High School.

At Austin High School, students are split into smaller learning communities: the Academy for Classical Studies, the Academy for Design and Technology, the Academy for Global Studies, and the Academy for Science and Innovation. Each of these smaller learning communities teaches the same curriculum but through a different lens based on the learning pillars of that academy. I am a science teacher for the Academy of Design and Technology, a community of Makers that places empathy at the center of the design thinking process to solve problems innovative ways.

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