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Report Shares Makerspace Impact in California CCs

College of the Canyons makerspace

The College of the Canyons was one institution that shared its makerspace origin story in the recently published "Makerspace Impact" report. Source: CCC Maker

The "Maker 100" course at the City College of San Francisco, a general education class, is team-taught by three instructors: a member of the Visual Media Design department, a member of the Art/Sculpture department and a member of the Computer Networking and Information Technology department. That's just one of the courses available at the college that uses the CCSF "MakerSPHERE" collaborative workspaces. There's also a certificate of achievement program for working professionals and students who want to understand and apply maker concepts; a capstone Maker 400 course; and a one-unit class for teachers. All are hosted in the institution's three makerspaces on two campuses: one dedicated to clean equipment, another using a smart networked environment with midweight equipment, and a third running heavy industrial gear.

The whole program was sparked when the college called a development day for faculty to examine student data for their specific departments and come up with ideas for how to improve student success. A big concern for Computer Network and IT Department Chair Maura Devlin-Clancy was engaging underrepresented students and helping them prepare for success in the booming Bay Area job market. Data suggesting that even a little exposure to career and technical education could increase a student's earning potential and job prospects intrigued her. Simultaneously, Devlin-Clancy was invited to an Internet of Things bootcamp being run by college partner Cisco inside the city's Exploratorium museum, which delivered her first real exposure to the workings of makerspaces.

By January 2016, when the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office put out a call for makerspace proposals, the college "knew a solution was in sight." The current set of maker resources are used in numerous courses across the campus and "embraced by the full spectrum of departments and student population," according to a new report produced by the CCCCO.

According to "Makerspace Impact: Implementation Strategies & Stories of Transformation," the Chancellor's Office's $17 million grant enabled 24 community colleges to open or expand their makerspace efforts. Those spaces were used by an estimated 64,310 students; drew 1,296 employers as partners in the endeavor; engaged 691 faculty members; and funded 844 internships. And the impact has been broad, according to those immersed in the initiative.

The CCC Maker network, as it's called statewide, "encouraged participating colleges to lead the way in redefining what it means to be well-educated, especially in terms of a swiftly changing economy demanding a resilient and adaptable workforce," said Deborah Bird, in a statement. Bird, who serves as a technical assistance provider for CCC Maker and previously worked as an assistant professor at Pasadena City College, noted that "successful faculty leads challenged traditional curricular boundaries and pedagogical practices, built community on and off campus, engaged local employers, and encouraged students to initiate projects across disciplines as well as start entrepreneurial ventures."

Zack Dowell, the Innovation Center director at Folsom Lake College, added that the makerspace at his college is primarily staffed by students. "The inspiration is empowering students to look at problems in a different way, to have a different set of possibilities and to give them access to tools," he said. "Empowerment manifests itself in a lot of different ways."

Clare Sadnik, a makerspace coordinator and art instructor at Moorpark College, said she's seen students develop superior skills in problem-solving, troubleshooting, teamwork, spatial awareness, mentoring and peer-to-peer learning. "We were excited that we would be able to give the students more access to equipment and technology," said Sadnik. "If they come in and make something really easy, like a button, then their eyes start to open and see all the possibilities."

The impact report profiles the programs of nine community colleges and includes essays by individual students sharing their own stories about how making and access to the makerspaces has changed their lives.

"Had it not been for the makerspace, the CNC machine that I use in my designs, or my ability to say 'yes' even when the odds seem difficult, I wouldn't be where I am today, creating my own original designs and having the world take a look at them," said Christian Espinoza, a student at Sacramento City College, who now works as a designer creating and making his own furniture.

The impact report is available with registration through the CCC Maker website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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