Starting Your Maker Space
We have been lucky enough to attend numerous events here in Winnipeg, Manitoba about bringing technology into the class room and to show educators what kind of tools we are using to innovate right now. We have decided to build a simple guide for schools who want to find the resources needed to do so.
Disclaimer: Bit Space Development does not represent the technology we are mentioning in this article, we also do not represent any educational institute.
Starting your maker space is probably the most difficult part. Every school wants one, but where do you start? There are so many different technologies and supplies you need for your space but where is the list of thing to start with?
Bit Space Development is focused on working with new technologies. We work with the same kind of hardware to prototype our solutions as you would find in a maker space… because our labs are maker spaces.
Where To Start?
Every maker space needs the essentials. Supplies, materials, the kind of stuff you are going to be using all the time (consumables). This is the obvious stuff.
- Hand Tools
- Duct Tape
This is the stuff you can probably already find in your school or garage. You can probably make a trip to Michael’s or any craft supply store to grab most of this stuff. A trip to Princess Auto will yield most of the hand tools you need (depending on the policies at your school of course).
What About The Technology?
There is a whole pile of affordable technology that you want to have in your arsenal. This ranges from single board computers to internet of things devices. You want to empower your students through technology to build what is in their head.
- Raspberry Pi: Most educators are aware of the Pi, it is open source and largely endorsed by schools. Affordable and easy to get started with. This system on a chip is versatile and not only helps kids learn to code but also teaches them about electronics and computers.
- Little Bits: The most kid friendly prototyping hardware on the market right now. Solder-less electronics, snap them together and learn about electronics and electricity.
- Arduino: The Ardunio is the go-to micro-controller. This board has spawned many knock off boards.. because it is good at what it does and is an open source project. This is the easiest to learn board for kids who want to start building robots and other home automation projects.
The not-so obvious:
- The Banana Pi: There are several Banana Pi boards.. we recommend theBanana Pro. This board is based off the Raspberry Pi but brings a faster processor, more RAM, and built in sensors like an IR receiver. You can run the same operating system and the Raspberry accessories are compatible.
- Phidgets: Almost as easy as little bits but in many cases cheaper. Phidgets are prototying hardware that are compatible with many other platforms and let you code for them in any language you want (they support all the popular ones).
Some other popular hardware:
- Beagle Bone
- Orange Pi
- Humming Board
There are so many more.. just ask and we shall deliver.
Learning Banana Pi
Written by me, Dan Blair (CEO, Bit Space Development). This book is a comprehensive guide to learning about single board computing. There are several projects as well as an introduction to programming and Linux.
The book is also good for learning about any Pi board, not just the Banana Pi.
This is what everybody is interested in right now. 3D printing is almost a mythical technology to some people. It is also pretty disappointing when it isn’t exactly the same as the Star Trek’s replicator.
You have a lot to think about when purchasing a 3D printer. Fundamentally they are all the same machine or accomplish the same thing. You have a print surface, which may be heated. The machine moves in 3 axis’ (X, Y, Z) and they generally melt plastic through a hot end to build an object up from nothing. Essentially you are performing additive manufacturing but on a very small scale. There is also SLA printing that uses a laser and resin but that seems less safe right now so we recommend any printer that can print in PLA plastic (ABS requires ventilation due to fumes).
So Which Do We Buy
It is difficult to recommend one particular printer to everybody. There are a few things to take into consideration. Do you want your students to build it (probably not if you are teaching younger children). Do you want it to be open source (build parts for it’s self). Do you want a commercial warranty (probably) and what about support?
I will make a few recommendations here to think about.
The Makerbot is one of the bigger names. It was originally open source but eventually closed before being acquired by Stratasys. This might not matter to you, they are essentially the commercial solution for desktop 3D printers.
- Commercial warrenty
- Full solution
- Dedicated software
- Closed Source
- Proprietary Filament Spools (more expensive)
- Paid Support
The Printrbot is another 3D printer that used to be open source but went closed recently. They were not acquired but instead have decided to close source and follow in the footsteps of Makerbot.
- Older Open Source Version (download the plans and make it yourself)
- Community Support
- Non-proprietary Filament
- Cheaper extruders
- Went closed
- Bad instructions for building (buy pre-built)
- High rate of break-downs (self built versions)
Here is a list of 3D printers to look into in no particular order.
It is going to come down to what you end up wanting. The Makerbot is good for most schools because it is enclosed. It is better for elementary to early middle school. Later grades, high school might want something more hands on, open source that they can hack.
The choice is yours.
VR is something totally new. It is barely a market right now. That being said it is something you can expect your students to want. They can make something physical in your maker space right now, so let them go somewhere or build something virtually. There are headsets that are very accessible right now.
This is the headset that most people are going to think of. For the DK2 right now you are looking at about a $300 – $400 investment depending on if you buy new or used. In my opinion you should wait until the new sets come out but that is up to you. This headset will be more durable but let you, there is a more maker-friendly way to do VR though.
The Google Cardboard is our favourite VR. Open source design, cheap to buy ($3 – $12) and powered by the cell phone you already have. This cardboard box lets your students explore the world with their phone.
The Google Cardboard is actually a good maker project alone. You can download the plans, cut it out of cardboard and by the time your students are done they have a VR headset, this could be used in another class or have them create something for themselves.
Building VR content
Disclaimer: We will be upfront with the fact we built this solution, We don’t want to come across as pushing our own services on you but so far, this is our preferred method.
PanoPla – Our solution to building content for virtual reality. This platform lets to build and manage your VR field trips, virtual tours, or even have your students create scenarios or annotate images with interactivity.
You can use PanoPla to build all kinds of stuff, check out the blog to find out more.
This is just the start for your maker space. From here you will take the essentials that you have here and build from that. You can start to watch your students take what you have supplied to them here and apply it in other classes. Maybe they build something for a project they are working on in history. The goal here is to empower your students to let them explore and show the world what they can do.