My Makerspace wishlist for K-12 Schools and College Makerspaces (aka fablabs, STEM labs, STEAM labs, hackerspaces, etc)

General, How-Tos

Folks have been asking me what I think it takes to make a Makerspace.

The short answer is people. The right person can make a space successful for very little money. Conversely, a lot of money can go to waste on equipment if the wrong person is running the show. I think the person needs to be have “EdTech” type humanizing technology skills and  the ability to use social media and media production to constantly market, document and publicize activities in the space. More support for the people aspect of Makerspaces is here: MIT FabLab Foundation, scroll down.

In terms of equipment, here’s my rough thoughts below, as of the publish date only. Check with me if it’s after that, things are moving fast in Makerland!

No Budget (It’s the people stupid!)

  • A champion who’s job it is to champion the space, as a volunteer, or as part of their existing job.
  • Check out the book Invent to Learn from the library.
  • From the recycling bins: Cardboard, cups, bottles, etc. (Wash them!)
  • Donated stuff: old toys, glue guns, duct tape, office supplies, old electronics, bike parts, scrap wood, kitchen supplies, (often from soliciting parents, community, and business donors – you’d be shocked at how much stuff arrives if folks know kids will be using it at school!)
  • Space: With windows that open. An empty closet, garage, tent, shed, or make it mobile with donated bins
  • Furniture: Folding tables and old chairs or stools. They will take a beating!

$5000 to $10,000

(Prices assume 10-20% education discounts on sites, just ask and use your teacher work email).

  • At least a paid part time champion (existing teacher, new hired, staffer, etc)
  • All the above plus more kits, tools and supplies.
  • A sustained yearly supplies budget of about $3000.00 to $5000.00
  • At least one dedicated fast Mac or PC  and projector ($2500 or in a classroom already)
  • Student access to modern Web browser tools.
  • 3D Printer and supplies. 1 Afinia H480 ($1500), or 2 PrintrBot Metal Simples ($1500)
  • Vinyl Cutter and supplies. US Cutter ($500)
  • 8th? grade and up. All with good curriculum and support. My favorite for STEAM skills. starter kits ($100ea). For more STEM skills, Sparkfun Inventor’s Kit ($80). For more choices on configurations, Adafruit kits.
  • <6th? grade MakeMakey kits ($39ea) or Littlebits (expensive).
  • Sparkfun ProtoSnap E-Textiles Starter Kit ($24 each)
  • Sewing Machine (~$150)
  • Multimeter (~$30)
  • A few key tools (~$200)
  • Extra electronics (~$200)
  • New glue guns, tape, wire, string, tinfoil, office supplies, etc (~$300)
  • Existing or inexpensive folding tables and chairs, or stools and benches, a fan, lights. (~$600)

$10,000 to $50,000

  • Fulltime champion
  • All of the above, plus more kits, tools and supplies.
  • Out of my depth here, but I’m guessing a roughly 20% of initial budget for yearly supplies and IT (Spend $50K, need 10K year).
  • All of the above
  • Laser Cutter. Full Spectrum Laser cutter ($4000). Or Epilog Zing 30w Laser ($9000)
  • CNC rig? Or more electronics? Or more wearables?
  • Great furniture and lighting, natural hopefully, ($Lots)

$$$ Dreamy

MIT Fablab budget list

Basic Skills

  • Tinkering
  • Failing
  • Surfing the Web
  • Google searching
  • Shop safety
  • Documenting skills and habits. Finding files  and organizing them, and doing a little every day (videos, photos,  screenshots, writing summaries and notes with resources used and links. Exploring problems, surprises, solutions)

Some Software Thoughts (Thanks Jaymes Dec)

A computer that has, or can install and use:


Help Neighborhood Schoolhouse reach 300 Likes!


Help our local independent progressive school, Neighborhood Schoolhouse, reach 300 likes on their Facebook Page in their 30th year! My wife Laura works there and I’m on the board:

How I set up a small progressive school on Google Apps for Education (K-12)


I’ve made four screencasts about my experience successfully setting up a small progressive PreK-6 school with Google Apps for Education (K-12).

1. Starting an account

Shows how to start an account and prove you own the domain ( that you want to use. Be able to edit, or contact those who can, the Web site of the domain you want to use before you start. If you have a Web master, give them a heads up that you’ll be contacting them for help with putting a single HTML file on the Web server.

2. The Education Upgrade

Shows how to get the free upgrade to the education edition to get the full power of Google Apps Education, K-12

3. Why free?

Talks about why Google Apps for Education (K-12) is free.

4. Ubuntu donated computers

Shows how a school can to use the free Linux operating system Ubuntu to use any “cloud” applications, and how Ubuntu helps companies more easily donate computers.

5. Ubuntu donated computers

Got MX records all set, full steam ahead, sneak peak of new school site.

Lesson learned in a nutshell

  1. Don’t wait if you’re considering it. Just try it out with a few staff or students and see if it spreads.
  2. Moving an organization to Google Apps for Education, K-12, is mostly about TRAINING and CHANGE MANAGEMENT. If a few people in your organization  are excited about technology and fearless, the move will spread naturally from email use only, to the early adopters nudging others with gentle pleas of, “why don’t I just share that doc with you? Here, I’ll show you how.” If your organization is full of tech excited people, it will spread effortlessly. If you’ve got a lot of people resistant to change, plan a LOT of training and time.
  3. Security is an issue for some. I believe with so many schools going to Google the US dept. of Ed. will step in if Google starts to do bad things.