History of the GCAA Makerspace

“A good design is never finished.”  

Just as our students are encouraged to iterate their solutions based on user testing & feedback, our approach to learning in the Makerspace has seen significant enhancements as well.

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GCAA Makerspace v1.0

Version 1.0 – Spring 2013:  The Disruption Department via Gregory Hill piloted Makerspace programming at Grand Center Arts Academy via in small office at the school.  We used a $100 budget to go on a Dollar Tree shopping spree for prototyping materials. The program was only open to 7th graders on Fridays.  The material constraints meant a focus on learning the framework of Design Thinking versus specific tools.  On the first day students walked into an empty room that they designed using Design Thinking.

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GCAA Makerspace v2.0

Version 2.0 – (2013/2014):  Success of the pilot in the spring encouraged us to expand to a full space the next year.  This space was a “drop-in” model, which meant students visited similar in context to a library.  They came as part of a class, during study hall, or before/after school.  Students completed a “Design Proposal Form” that guided their thinking through the product development process before making a prototype and soliciting feedback from other students.  Eventually, students demanded that they come to Makerspace as a regular part of their day, so we piloted the idea of a class (Design Thinking 101) in the Spring 2014.  

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GCAA Makerspace v3.0

Version 3.0 – (2014/2015): We were incredibly fortunate to start this year with a grant from CORTEX that supported a wide variety of Makerspace tool, material, and infrastructure enhancements.  This year we also expanded to a full-course model, offering two middle school & two high school offerings and expanding to “The Briefing Room” which provides a space for students to reflect and present on their learnings.  In October we hosted a “Makerspace Redesign Weekend” where community members specializing in architecture, design, education, and business helped us identify challenges, brainstorm, and prototype solutions to enhance the space.  Solutions included everything from a storage system redesign to a new seating arrangement.  This process is now replicated as a project in one of the Middle School Courses.

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GCAA Makerspace v4.0

Version 4.0 – (2015/2016): We added a third middle school offering.  That class is currently working in collaboration with the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial to design a scale model of the updated Arch Grounds.  Students now visit the Makerspace via one of five distinct courses offered for Middle School & High School.  Another enhancement was the switch to Chromebooks & Google Classroom, which has enhanced the quality and quantity of feedback.  Guiding learning in all courses is the framework of Design Thinking as a human-centered approach to problem solving. 

Coming Soon:
Version 5.0 – (2016/2017):  Version 5.0 will include another new course offering which focuses on game design.  We also plan to scale the knowledge, skills, and mindsets of Design Thinking that students use in the Makerspace to other areas within the building.  We’re excited to foster new relationships with community partners to offer students authentic audiences for whom to design solutions.  

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