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Sierra College Uses Grant Funds to Expand Ties to Community Makerspaces

Sierra College is putting a $350,000 grant from the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office to use through relationships with three community makerspaces.

The grant was awarded last year as part of the California Community Colleges Maker Initiative, a program comprising 25 community colleges in the state which aims to prepare students for STEM and STEAM careers by building makerspaces, embedding making into the curriculum and through internships with local employers.

At Sierra, the funding supports full-time personnel who are developing partnerships with Hacker Labs, Truckee Roundhouse and Curious Forge, makerspaces near three of the college's campuses.

"Integrating makerspaces into education is the most exciting thing to happen in my educational career," said Kim Bateman, dean of the Tahoe-Truckee Campus of Sierra College, in a prepared statement. "Students learn so much from experimentation and collaboration. For example, art students in our two-dimensional design course are discussing design in the classroom, going upstairs to the Sierra College computer lab to layout original projects in Illustrator, and then taking their digital files over to the Truckee Roundhouse to program their work to be executed on the laser cutter. It's the perfect bridge between theory and real world applications."

The grant provided funding for faculty professional development for digital and technical skills, along with learning how to integrate making and entrepreneurship into their curriculum, but students have been getting in on instructing as well.

"Naima Pagano, Sierra College fashion student, came to Hacker Lab seeking access to the industrial sewing machines," said Steve Hunter, Sierra Makerspaces faculty maker-in-residence, in a prepared statemment "She soon created her own business repurposing old garments into new creations. Then, Naima took her maker experience to Curious Forge, started teaching textile arts, became the manager of the Forge's textile space and now has a paid position as the Program Developer for Curious Forge."

Current and former students are also serving as makerspace instructors in other areas, such as 3D printing and Arduino programming.

The college will also launch new internships soon, with a plan to place 30 students in positions with local employers in the spring.

"The CCC Maker grant offers funding for 20 hours of internship experience and we are currently seeking business interested in interviewing interns," said Dominic Felipe Gutierrez, director of Sierra Makerspaces, in a prepared statement. "We held the first student training in January to certify students in 'ready to work' skills. Aleda Vaughn, Sierra College Welding faculty member, delivered New World of Work (NWOW) Modules on Communication, Analysis/Solution Mindset and Entrepreneurial Mindset."

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About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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