Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Does Your Makerspace Really Need a 3D Printer?

I have a new article out in the latest issue of the Association of Children's Museums journal, Hand to Hand.

The theme of the issue is "The Maker Movement" and my article is entitled "Do You Really Need a 3D Printer, and Other Essential Questions You Need to Ask about a Museum’s Makerspace."

You can download a PDF version of the article via the Free Exhibit Resources section of my POW! website, but here are a few excerpts about Makerspaces (and other design-focused spaces) that I shared in my article:

• I love the idea of 3D printers, in a Jetsons/Sci-fi/World’s Fair type of way. The promise of using a tabletop device to create absolutely anything out of any material (even food!) is pretty amazing. The reality, however, is you can spend hours designing a widget the size of a quarter that then takes even more hours to print successfully on the 3D printer… only to often find out that it hasn’t. When they work, they’re magic, but they’re not that simple to operate.

• Forming creative partnerships with makers in the communities around your museum can be mutually beneficial. This could be as simple as recruiting artists/tinkerers to showcase their work and how they make it to your visitors. You could also recruit retired tool and die makers, seamstresses, or NASA scientists.

• The focus on flashy high-tech gadgets exemplifies how the development of makerspaces in organizations can be susceptible to a “Ready, Fire, Aim!” mentality. Makerspaces are perceived as cool and eminently fundable, but often museums start planning spaces and purchasing equipment (Laser Cutters! 3D Printers! Robot Kits!) without considering what a makerspace is all about, and what the qualities of the most successful spaces are.

•  An unstaffed or unfacilitated makerspace is a wasted space. The best interactions in a good maker space will certainly involve staff and visitors learning together. Does the stuff (tool and materials) you provide help foster those human connections?

•  Many makerspaces have adopted a rough, workshoppy, “toys for boys” aesthetic that can be off-putting for many people (male or female) who are unsure of their making skills and interests. Why not mix up the look and feel of different areas in your space so you don’t stop potential makers dead in their tracks as they peek through the door?

I hope you'll download my entire article by clicking here, and also check out the ACM website to learn how to obtain the entire "Maker Movement" issue of Hand to Hand. 

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