Written by: Felicia Ingram

Liberty Tech students were peacefully assembled together, awaiting their latest creation around a laser engraver in the school’s makerspace. Written on a sheet of paper next to the laser were the dimensions for a pegboard with a purpose.

“We're working on pegboards for therapists to help kids with disabilities ,” Liberty manufacturing science student Austin Vande Zande explained, “[to] strengthen their hands and have them be more hands-on.”

These teens were using their resources for good. 

Students searched for a solution for someone in need and they found joy doing so. This was all thanks to a makerspace at Liberty Technology Magnet High School. The goal of the additional equipment was to enhance the educational experience; however, the kids became enriched in otherways. The laser cutter is empowering students to make a difference and start a business. Using the school’s makerspace equipment, students design signs and engrave lettering. 

Randy Pearson, instructor of one of the classes that utilizes the makerspace, talked about the skills students gain from the class. “My students learn CNC programming,” Pearson said. “We cover every aspect of manufacturing—from electronics to hydraulics, pneumatics, mechanical drives, hand tools, and power tools.”

This class is designed to get students thinking about their futures. 

“My students will be prepared to go to post-secondary school and learn a trade,” Pearson explained. “We teach employable skills, soft skills as well as the hands-on. But I have many students who have completed my class who go to college to become engineers.”

Vande Zande explained how the class changed his career outlook. “It made me really want to be more of an engineer. I was going in more for business, but once I came here and started working on [the technology available at school], it made me want to be more hands-on.”

Rebecca Utterback, manufacturing student, also explained how taking the class changed her perspective. “At first it was just a selected enrichment class, but I actually turned out to really love it.”

Liberty students can also gain computer programming skills from Joseph Grapes’ coding class. Grapes’ classes also takes advantage of Liberty’s makerspace. As an instructor of computer classes, Grapes teaches a progression of classes including Computer Applications, Web Design, and culminating in Programming and Logic. 

The addition of the laser engraver gave students a chance to expand on their curriculum for coding students as well as Pearson’s manufacturing science students. 

“When the laser engraver came in last year, we were able to tie some of the less tangible standards of our curriculum to real and marketable items,” Grapes said. “The laser helps to cement concepts like the difference between raster and vector images by allowing students to see how the laser interprets and executes each image type and puts an actual, physical product in their hands. So much of the coding world is not ‘real’ to them. It's like Wifi—it's there, you just can't see it.”

The makerspace is becoming more important for communities in recent years. Dan Drogosh, facilities manager at theCO, says makerspaces brings endless possibilities for collaboration in resolving today’s economical, medical, and technological issues. 

Drogosh further explains that a makerspace is “a place where individuals can collaborate while having access to the tools and resources needed to construct prototypes at an affordable cost. Innovation is the result of collaboration and experimentation. Makerspaces provide an excellent environment for helping a community advance.”

At Trinity Christian Academy, students are also creating projects in their coding classes. Teacher Michael Mancini used his coding class to allow students to explore new possibilities in technology. Last semester, the group created an arcade gaming console. The console was displayed at theCOtoberfest at theCO in October of 2016 and featured retro games including popular Nintendo games. Although the build was a success, Mancini and many of his students would agree that a dedicated makerspace would be beneficial to their program.

“I think that having makerspaces to do projects like this one that we did is beneficial because students may not be able to do stufflike that at home,” Trinity senior, Will Taylor, explained. “They don’t really have access to all the resources we have here, so it may be something that they wanted to do but not be able to do. It's good to have those resources because you can really let your creativity flow and really do what you want to do.”