By Rebecca Hoskins

The Cesar Chavez makerspace workbench area, much improved after the "Make-A-Space" activity.

The Cesar Chavez makerspace workbench area, much improved after the "Make-A-Space" activity.

Spring is in the air, and as a Spring cleaning exercise our team has turned our collective design-thinking skills inward. The goal: to help each tinkerer clean and better organize their space. As a team, we are looking critically and empathetically at each of the makerspaces to learn from good ideas and suggest (and make) improvements, with the needs of the site tinkerer in mind. This initiative, called “Make-A-Space,” is spearheaded by my fellow Maker VISTA Jennifer Torres and Los Robles Tinkerer Christopher Auger-Dominguez.

The process starts with a tour of the space, during which the tinkerer shows us where things are kept and how different zones of the room are used. Using the concept of “Fit-Misfit-Omit” from Dr. Keith Bookwalter,  the tinkerer describes areas in their space which work well, don’t currently work but could be improved, or need to go. Then we share our thoughtful critiques of the space, and we set to work removing or retooling the “omit” items and fixing those “misfits.” This is a great exercise for sharing good ideas about organization and helping each other with challenges. Despite being a work-in-progress, Make-A-Space has already made several of our makerspaces more easily navigable for students, and more functional for tinkerers.

Here are some takeaways from our spaces:

  • Small pieces of cardboard should be stored in small containers which are emptied regularly (kids will generate more scraps).

  • All robotic and electronic materials should be located in the same zone.  

  • A tinkerer-only cabinet/shelf should be used to ration surplus consumables if running out is a problem. Pretty much everything else should be available and accessible to students.

  • Each tinkerer needs a place to store prepped classroom activities and finished student projects.

  • Labelling is key, from big wall posters indicating zones to the smallest boxes.

  • Some kind of layout map for each space will help students and volunteers orient themselves.

  • If it looks like a box of trash and kids never look in it, it probably is (mostly) a box of trash. Pick out & organize the good stuff and dump the rest.

  • Teamwork makes the dream work!

How do you keep your makerspace clean and organized? Tell us in the comments below!

AuthorWeb Tinkermaster