Makerspaces can be a great place for students to tinker and experiment with desgins for all kinds of things from 3D printed objects to wind-powered model cars to cardboard robots. The possibilities seem limited only by the budget and materials you have available. However, while some students are naturally inclined to come up with all kinds of ideas for makerspace projects, other students need some inspiration. Here are some good places to find ideas for makerspace projects.
Invent to Learn
Anyone who is serious about creating a makerspace should read Invent to Learn by Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez. I’ve been recommending this book for years! The second edition is just as good as the first. It’s a step-by-step guide to thinking about how to create a makerspace and how to make it a place for kids to tinker and learn. It’s not a step-by-step guide to specific projects although you will find some excellent suggestions along the way. My key take-aways from the book can be read here.
Exploratorium Science Snacks
Exploratorium’s Science Snacks website has dozens and dozens of hands-on science and engineering projects for students of all ages. There is a subsection of the site called Family-Friendly Snacks that offers activities specifically designed for parents to do at home with their kids. The vast majority of the projects can be done with common household items. And in response to the COVID-19 outbreak Exploratorium has a selection of activities and videos about viruses.
Tinkercad is an online program that students can use to create designs for 3D printable objects. It can also be used to design simple circuits and Arduino projects. Students can safely design and test circuits and Arduino projects completely online through the use of Tinkercad’s online simulator. Tinkercad includes a large gallery of project ideas that students can mix and remix in their online accounts. As a teacher you can create a free classroom account in which you can see your students’ work.
Hacking STEM is a Microsoft website that offers about two dozen hands-on science and engineering lessons. The activities are a mix of things that students can probably do on their own and some that probably can’t be done without the supervision of a teacher or parent with working knowledge of the concept(s) being taught. For example, the mini solar house project that I’m having my ninth grade students do can be done safely without my direct supervision (I’m removing the glue gun component and having them use tape). But the “party lights” activity on the same page is not something they’ll be able to do on their own.
Instructables is a great place to find inspiration for all kinds of makerspace activities from building cool cardboard towers to making robots that water plants to electronics-infused clothing. Throughout the year Instructables hosts contests that are open to students. In fact, last fall some of my students participated in the remix contest that Instructables held. That contest was a good source of project inspiration for some of my students.