FabLearn: Entrepreneurship & Sustainable Makerspaces

My second submission for the FabLearn 2017 Flagship Conference at Stanford University, October 21-22. The format is intended for research papers but educator submissions for short talks are in the same basic format.

Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Makerspaces

The author works in a public high school in suburban Virginia. This Round Table presentation reflects on experiences of winner of US Department of Education’s CTE Makeover Challenge to create a sustainable makerspace through entrepreneurship. Virginia Career and Technical Educations competencies include an Entrepreneurship Infusion Unit that empowered CTE classes to explore using the makerspace to make products for sale. Through this process students and staff identified multiple opportunities to insource the production of items in the makerspace. The revenue from these activities creates a sustainable source of income for makerspace supplies while providing discounted costs to school organizations.

Entrepreneurship; Makerspace; Digital Fabrication

2.1 Description of your setting
The author works in a public high school in Loudoun County, Virginia. Loudoun is listed as the richest county in the US based on median family income. The author’s school has an enrollment of approximately 1,500 students with 25% qualifying for free and reduced lunch. Over 300 students receive ELL services. The author serves as an Instructional Facilitator focused on supporting teachers in the integration of instructional technology into classroom teaching. The author promotes making as an instructional strategy and works with teachers at all grade levels and content areas.

2.2 Description of the educational experience
The CTE Makeover Challenge prize allowed for the purchase of equipment and starter supplies. The makerspace team identified the need to develop a plan to maintain makerspace supply levels over multiple years. Marketing teachers were brought in to brainstorm how makerspace tools could be used to create products for sale in the school store. Marketing students and teachers did a cost analysis and determined that vinyl stickers for sports teams could be produced in-house at much lower cost than outside vendors. The makerspace team worked out a model where the marketing class created the stickers and paid the makerspace twice the cost of the materials. The material markup allowed for a sustainable revenue stream for the makerspace while also allowing the school store to sell the stickers at a lower price while maintaining a higher profit per sticker.

3.1 Results
Marketing class and technology education classes explored designing, making and selling real world products while meeting Virginia CTE competencies. School clubs were able to in-source production of custom t-shirts, stickers and buttons. Athletic teams purchased stickers and customized plaques and trophies produced by makerspace volunteers. Students and staff using the makerspace for extra-curricular fundraisers were more likely to use the makerspace for classroom projects.

3.2 Broader Value
The use of makerspace tools to create products that school organization are already purchasing allows a sustainable source of income for the makerspace. These profits can in turn be used to support instructional projects and covering material costs for vulnerable students.

3.3 Relevance to Theme
In order to create a sustainable ecosystem for making in education a reliable source of supplies and materials are needed. While grants and donations are useful for acquiring hardware and starter materials those sources may not be sufficient for ongoing costs. Insourcing production of products that the school community is already purchasing is a solution that other schools can replicate to create a revenue stream.

Designer. Maker. Teacher. Stanford #FabLearn Fellow. #CTEMakeover Challenge Winner. @Formlabs 3D Design Award Winner – Top Educational Design. @Inventables 50 States Carver Winner – Virginia. @Thingiverse Featured. @Make Digital Fabrication Review Team 2014/2015. 2nd place Outsider Art Fair NY 2016 Babel competition. @Ultimaker Pioneer. Blogger at DesignMakeTeach.com. YouTuber at youtube.com/designmaketeach
By day: Instructional Facilitator, Technology for the Loudoun Academy of Science & Dominion High School, Loudoun County Public Schools.