Company’s generosity creates makerspace for Southridge students

Sourced from Dubois County Free Press

Southridge freshman James Howell reached up over the seat to push the play button on the iPad.

The other four students in the room – Timothy Ash, Cheyanne Mottler, Elizabeth Fleck and Chloe Erwin – were creating a YouTube talk show and had pulled him into their project to help.

The three hosts had scripted a talk show around eyebrow fashion and a funny anecdote about a recent basketball game. But with their fourth teammate recording with his iPhone, someone was needed to push a couple buttons off-camera.James happened to be in the room working on a paper airplane challenge so he jumped over to provide a hand. After recording for a bit, James returns to working on a couple paper airplane models. Then he needed some help measuring his flight times and Cheyanne says she will do it.

These self-educating explorative and cooperative activities are exactly what Southridge’s Media Specialist Sarah Bardwell had hoped would happen in the school corporation’s makerspace. Students can gather to tinker, explore and discover using different tools and materials in the space. Or, more simply, they can work together to create.

“This gets kids to become more familiar with different types of technology,” Bardwell said. “They get to play with things hands-on and problem solve.”

Bardwell saw a need for adding a space at the Southridge High School library. She applied for a $2,000 grant through Toyota Motor Manufacturing and received $1,000 to go towards her plans.

When she announced the idea in the school’s newsletter, that brought in a parent, Amy Maxey, who also worked at National Office Furniture. Maxey took the idea to the company to see how they could help.

“We were going to have a makerspace no matter how we could get it done,” Bardwell explained. “I had thought we could put something in a corner of the library at least. We just happened to get lucky with National wanting to create a space.”

National came forward with a proposal to create the space and publish a case study. Using the company’s furniture lines geared for open and collaborative workspaces, National turned a 309 square foot meeting room in the library into a modern, outfitted makerspace. It features a computer screen and peripheral devices, white boards, seating, desks and office amenities designed for students to work together.

“I can’t thank them enough for what they did,” Bardwell said.

With the grant still in hand thanks to National Office Furniture’s generosity, Bardwell has been able to buy tools and kits for students to work on during their study halls.

Nobody has to use the new room but students have naturally been attracted to the colorful and bright area. To further entice them work on a project, Bardwell rotates in different items like programmable robots and circuit building kits. Then, she offers little prizes for different accomplishments.

The video production going on this week is taking advantage of a green screen. With an app Bardwell purchased, the students have worked since last Friday to script, rehearse and record the video.

The paper airplane challenge is proving to be a fun and deceptively easy project. With the inexpensive building materials, experimentation abounds.

“It’s great seeing the kids use their time more wisely than just sitting there and doing nothing,” she said.

The students agree. “It’s a nice break from school,” Cheyanne said.

The idea is expanding in the school corporation. Bardwell just received a grant from Dubois REC to start a makerspace in the middle school.

“It’s exciting to see the library being used in a different way,” Bardwell said. “It will be great to see students take these projects further.”

Here is a white paper on the project.