Makerspace Challenge: First Session for our Team

Last night at Ward 4 The Commons revealed the teams for each of this semester’s challenges. After a getting-to-know-each-other exercise that involved great lengths of yarn and a couple of well placed metaphors, the teams got to work. Joost, Mike Cook and I walked our team through the challenge to find a sustainable way excess materials from area firms could be made available for Betty Brinn’s maker initiatives and the makerspaces/FabLabs within area schools. The team’s work for this week is to look at how other organizations have solved the problem.

Meet the Team

Back row:Ryan Dickson (Cardinal Stritch), Gabe Wichser (Carroll University),
Jason Hart (DevCodeCamp)

Front row: Taylor Waite (Cardinal Stritch), Jedidiah Hersey (UWM),
Holly Hamm (UW- Washington County), Isioma Okoro-Osademe (Marquette)

Photos: Robert Colletta Photography

Makerspace/FabLab Tours

One of the ideas that came out of our Makerspace/FabLab workgoup was to set up a series of tours to area Makerspaces/FabLabs. Tours would be structured to facilitate an exchange of ideas about effective use of a Makerspace/FabLab with the added context of the space within which those activities may occur.  Below is a description of what we are thinking.

If you are interested, let us know, we’d like to get started this spring.


    Tour participants have a chance to visit Milwaukee area Makerspaces/FabLabs at area schools and outside organizations. This provides a first hand look at how the space is organized and a chance to hear from the host about the types of projects they run, and challenges they face.


    Tours would happen once per month during the week after school– 4:00 to 6:00 PM. Tours would run during the school year (Sept. through May).


    Learn Deep will coordinate the tour schedule with schools and outside organizations interested in hosting, and handle registration for each tour. Participants will provide their own transportation to host sites.


    Visits will follow a standard format so that participants have a sense of what to expect. The agenda will include:

    • A tour of the space
    • Demonstration of one or more projects that are underway or have been completed using the space
      • Bonus points if students lead the demonstration
      • Bonus points if there is a hands on opportunity for participants
    • A chance for the space host to solicit ideas from tour participants about options to address issues or opportunities the host may have in making effective use of their facilities.

    Hosting a Tour

    The tour host will determine how many attendees they can reasonably accommodate.  Learn Deep will work with those interested in hosting a tour to schedule tour dates.

    Collab Lab 7 Recap and Notes

    Using Systems Thinking tools to explore driving engagement

    Iceberg diagram
    Adapted by Systems Thinking in Schools, Waters Foundation www.watersfoundation.org from Innovation Associates, Inc.

    As a prelude to the Systems Thinking Institute coming up in March, Sheri Marlin from the Waters Foundation and Ellen Grasely and Betsy Markwardt from Humboldt Park K8 School helped facilitate and captured notes from our breakout groups in iceberg diagrams. The key idea behind systems thinking and this tool in particular, is that:

    1. outcomes are driven by behavior
    2. behavior is driven by the structure of the system within which individuals operate
    3. that structure, in turn, is driven by our mental model of how things should work.

    To drive a systemic change in outcomes then, one needs to change the mental model we operate from.

    In our discussions, we walked through each of these layers from the perspective of both how the current system works and what we’d like to see it move to.  We wrapped up each discussion with the question “How will you move forward?”

    Group 1

    Current Situation

    Desired Results

    How will you move forward?

    Long term

    • Start your own school
    • Redo licensure
    • Only hire pros (interesting people), pay them $$$, train them to teach

    Medium Term

    • Invest in professional learning: Articulate, spend time $, 3 years of focus
    • Develop testing
    • Common planning time

    Group 2

    Current Situation

    Desired Results

    How will you move forward?

    • Reflect on how you react to an engaged classroom vs an unengaged classroom
    • Pay attention to school culture – everyone
    • Ask kids what would make this fun for you, excite you
    • Build personal relationships
    • Help to change your mental model, parents’ mental model, kids’ mental model of “school”
    • Teachers learn to reflect and take the time to restore (remove yourself)
    • Autonomy, purpose, mastery

    Group 3

    Current Situation

    Desired Results

    How will you move forward?

    • Rubric Scoring
    • Stories
    • Find allies — kids in particular
    • Build from grass roots
    • Relationships are key
    • Ask for solutions as part of homework
    • Root solutions in research
    • Training for parents — table talk questions so parents– promotes to meaningful discussions of what their kids are actually working on

    Makerspace entrepreneur challenge at The Commons

    LD partners with Betty Brinn Children’s Museum.

    In other metro areas around the country, non-profit organizations have formed to address this challenge. They solicit donations of excess materials from area firms and make them available to educators at low cost.  Better known among these are RAFT, with locations in California and Colorado, and the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse.

    Teachers attending our monthly Collab Labs expressed concerns about the cost of materials. That got us wondering what options we have in Milwaukee for an organization doing something similar.  We brought the idea for a corporate challenge to The Commons (who provides space for our Collab Labs in Ward 4 and helps facilitate our break out groups). They agreed that this would make an interesting challenge for students. So earlier this month we got the green light to pursue that with a team in this semester’s cohort.

    We partnered with Betty Brinn Children’s Museum to formulate this challenge over the past weeks.  We are challenging a team to create a pitch for a sustainable startup to provide surplus materials to the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum’s Maker Initiative as well as area school’s maker programs. We spent Sunday afternoon at Ward 4 with Carrie Wettstein and Mike Cook from Betty Brinn to introduce our challenge and meet prospective team members.

    The project will kick off on the 21st when team rosters are announced.  Our team will work with Mike Cook and the makers at Betty Brinn to understand their needs. Joost and I will serve as the team’s coaches through the process. We’ll help connect them with area schools creating or running makerspaces/FabLabs so they can understand the K12 perspective as well.

    We are thrilled to have the opportunity (Thanks, Joe!) and look forward to the work.  We’ll keep you posted on the team’s progress and opportunities to see what they come up with.

    Makerspace/FabLab Workgroup: Discussion Notes

    The first meeting of our makerspace/FabLab workgroup was held Tuesday evening at Ward 4.
    We did a quick review of concerns, captured a vision of where we would like to head in a lean canvas, and talked through some ideas for how we might help move things along.


    • Physical space
    • Culture
    • Marketing the school
    • Process/problem solving
    • Impact is longer term
    • How do we sell [the idea of a maker space] to the community
    • Lack of tech-ed teachers
    • Distributed ownership of space– e.g. how do we get teachers to think of it as “theirs”
    • Who is coordinator/does this need to be an FTE?
    • Leadership support
    • Time commitment to coordinate use of space
    • Defining a clear purpose for the space
    • How to make the transition [from the current model of teaching]
    • How to capture evidence of learning
    • Resources — materials and equipment
    • Project Ideas
    • Lack of professional development opportunities [for teachers to become comfortable with space/projects.
    • Ability to respond to needs of business community
    • Community Access


    School of the 21st Century


    • I don’t understand why school needs to change
    • I am afraid our current approach does not prepare kids for life in the future
    • My child is bored at school
    • I’m not seeing the return on my tax investment
    • I don’t know how to create a schedule to accommodate this change

    • Clear vision
    • Curriculum
    • Makerspace/FabLab
    • Staff aligned with goals of school
    Value Proposition
    Our solution enhances student engagement which results in [graduates] that are highly functional.


    We develop our students to solve problems no one has considered yet.

    Unique Advantage

    • Connection to M7
    • Willingness to collaborate
    • Strong art & tech programs
    • Leadership
    • Unique DNA (culture)

    • Students
    • Community
    • Business
    • Parents
    • Tax payer
    • School Leaders

    • # people surveyed
    • Engagement measure
    • Program engagement

    • Social media
    • Website
    • Parent night/events
    • Business/Community meeting
    • Showcase
    • Traditional Media
    Cost Structure

    • Equipment
    • Remodeling
    • Teacher re-training
    • Staffing
    • Materials
    • Collaboration

    • Quality graduates
    • Engaged students
    • Improving community
    • Teacher fulfillment


    Workgroup ideas to move towards vision

    Makerspace/FabLab tours

    • After school
    • Show what I’m working on
    • Chance to ask for help/ideas
    • Visits to makerspaces in both schools and outside organizations


    On-line Tools for Sharing

    • Ask for help
    • Share project ideas (Moodle)
    • Slack


    Dream Lab Workshop

    • Weekend or during summer
    • Design your dream makerspace/FabLab


    Build Curriculum Workshop

    • Summer bootcamp
    • Work as team to design makerspace/FabLab curriculum/projects
    • 2-4 days with coaching

    2023-24 Collab Labs

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