Inspiration for Organization

A MakerSpace is a shared space for people to create.  We have the blessing of sharing our future MakerSpace with about 700 teenage girls, as well as our larger community.  This widespread usage has great potential for innovation…as well as for chaos and disorganization.  A few photos from our future space as it is right now…

As you can see, we have stuff and space, but need a little structure. Fortunately, we are located very close to the all time guru of Maker organization, Pam Powell of Austin Community College Building Construction Technology.  We visited Pam at her workshop to marvel at the cleanliness and organization….and get some tips for setting up our space.

Doesn’t her space look so nice?


Pam shares her space with college students and community members taking classes.  We will share our space with about 700 teenage girls, so clearly we need some of Pam’s organizational structure.  Here are a few highlights we learned from our visit that we want to incorporate into our design.

(1) Workspaces

We are proud to say that we have no desks at Ann Richards School.  Our students all work at tables to foster collaboration and interaction.  Working in a shop lab requires a different type of workspace table.  ACC had some awesome work tables that were custom build to meet the needs of their shop.  Check them out:


Notice the built in wood storage with shelves for small pieces or tools on the side and long pieces through the middle.  Each table also has a built on clamp (pictured here) and electrical and compressed air lines (on the other side that you cannot see).  The table top also has holes for attachments of wood guides and, if you look closely, you can see there are multiple boards on the top so when one gets beat up you can just add another or go down a layer.  How clever!

We would like to have some tables like this built for our makerspace in a slightly smaller, child sized version.  If anyone knows a good carpenter willing to work on a school sized budget, please let us know.  We also are happy to accept free or volunteer work!

(2) Project and Materials Storage

Building physical “stuff” is an essential part of the Maker culture that we hope to infuse into our school and our students.  When you make “stuff” you have to have a place to store the stuff you will make it with and the stuff you will make.  The ACC shop had some great storage ideas including special shelves for wood:


And designated spaces for projects in progress:

I especially appreciated the clear instructions on how to label your projects, eliminating the “which one is mine?” that we hear often in the classroom.

(3) Tool storage

“A place for everything and everything in its place” may at times seem like a cliche phrase, but it describes Pam’s workspace to a tee.  Just take a look at all the specialized cubbies:

The storage spaces were clearly designed to be student proof.  Can you see how the drills don’t fit in the shelves unless the battery is taken out?  If you have to take out the battery, where could you put it?  In the charger, of course!

Ms. Jo and my personal favorite tool organization area was the sandpaper cutting station:


We also really liked the clamp racks:


(4) Safety and maintenance

Saws are sharp, drills are powerful, hammers are heavy, and sometimes things spark. A workshop is not inherently a safe place, so there must be structures to ensure all students (and teachers) stay safe and clean.  Pam had some good systems in place including easily accessible cleaning tools:


I have found that in my science classroom the more trashcans I have, the more likely it is that trash will get thrown away and not left out.  The ACC lab took that up a notch and, not only do they have trash cans, they have a designated place for those cans:


Just because something is not working does not mean it is trash.  Tools often need repair or routine maintenance.  Pam had a clever check out and tagging system for tool repair, but Ms. Jo’s hand got in the way of this picture, so I didn’t put it in.

The next key feature was safety equipment on devices (these shields are required for safety compliance and sometimes seem like a hassle, but you only have two eyes and my biomedical students  haven’t figured how to re-grow those yet, so it is better not to lose yours).  Pam demonstrates:


And also they selected equipment that has auto-stop and other safety features built in:


So those were our big four takeaways from the tour.  To recap, we need to design for:

  1. Usable workspaces
  2. Material and project storage
  3. Tool storage
  4. Safety and maintenance

We are tying to start the organization early and model good project management for our students during this process.  To help with that objective Ms. Waugh, one of our fearless administrators (find her on twitter at W2@ARStarsAP), is keeping our design team organized with a Trello board.

The Trello board lets us share ideas, assign tasks, and track progress.  It is helpful when working with a large and distributed team with many and varied objectives.

We’ve accomplished a few tasks on the board and delegated some out to others.  As of right now we have plans and inspiration and we’re looking forward to moving soon into construction and purchasing. In the mean time we would love to hear from any readers out there with experience. What else should we include to keep ourselves and our students organized and safe? 



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