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Community and culture

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Makerspace environment with students making

In this article, Nicholas Provenzano, Makerspace Director at University Liggett in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, USA shares his thoughts on the importance of promoting community and culture through making.

A makerspace is just that — a space. What truly makes it magical are the people that occupy it with their dreams. I have been advocating for schools to look into makerspaces as a way to promote this creative spirit. I believe that a space can help support ideas that students have and can draw reluctant learners in to try new things, but the mentality needs to be the focus. Therefore, I started to think really hard about what constitutes this maker mentality for me.

Making is about creating your world, and I think that includes your and your learning community’s mentality. Don’t be afraid to look at your community and add or tweak any trait that you feel is valuable to your makerspace. Anyone that tells you that all makerspaces have to be the same simply doesn’t understand what a makerspace is all about.

What are the traits I value when it comes to creating a culture that supports making at its core?

Be a risk taker

Be willing to try things that are completely new and different. Don’t be afraid of what might happen or how it might end. Take those risks, and do it with a smile — some of the best creations came from people who were willing to take risks.

Be fearless

If you are going to take risks, you need to be OK with failing. The bigger the risk, the bigger the potential failure, but don’t let fear be the blockade. Go for it, and if you fail, try again. Failure is not the end, it is just the beginning of the next attempt.

Be passionate

If you are going to do something, give it your all. You will only let yourself down if you are not willing to commit. That passion should drive you, but not rule you. Tempered passion is where success can be found. If you are going to make great things, make them with the passion found only in your heart.

Be inclusive

Making is for all people, all of the time. People can only be as great as the community with which they surround themselves. Different cultures, life experiences, ideas, and so much more can drive you to create amazing things. Opening doors to everyone welcomes in ideas that can change the world.

Be a hacker

Take things and think of different ways to use them. Remix and remix and remix again, until you create something new and beautiful. Some of the best things in the world have been created by just changing things that already exist. Be comfortable taking things apart and trying to put them back together. Hacking is a great way to create new things or understand how other things work.

Be an artist

We are all artists, we just use different mediums. A wired-up Raspberry Pi that will send you weather updates is a work of art to you and those who can appreciate the work that went into it. A beautiful pot created and given to a friend is art. The Arts are part of STEAM, and you are an artist. Your creations make the world a more beautiful place — never forget that.

Be a dreamer

Dream big, and dream often. Then take those dreams and make them a reality. If you want to remix the world, you need to dream it before you do it. Your dreams are only limited by your inaction.

Be true

Most importantly, be true to yourself. Making is about expressing feelings and ideas in ways that are meaningful to you. Stay true to that person, but be open to change and growth. A maker will grow and become something different if they are open to the community. As long as it is true to who you are, everything will be just fine.

I see all of these as parts of the maker mentality and as the key ingredients to a wonderful maker community that can change the way people think and approach problems. It is so important to make sure that everyone feels welcome into a makerspace, and that there is a sense of community and support within it. A makerspace should be about bringing people together to share ideas and applaud discovery. Implementing these traits will help ensure that the culture of your makerspace is one that will create a community of thinkers, doers, and, of course, makers.

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