STEAMing their way into… MAKERSPACE

Open house held at Marquette Senior High School

Marquette Senior High School junior Branden Lindgren demonstrates a CNC machine Thursday at an open house at the school’s Makerspace. Marquette Area Public Schools is a finalist in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition to further understanding local energy needs. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — Marquette Senior High School junior Branden Lindgren on Thursday tapped into the Maker Movement at the appropriately named Makerspace.

The spot is a great place for students to learn about anything related to STEAM: Science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

The movement has been stimulated recently by the development of new technologies like 3D printing, faster fabrication tools and prototyping, with like-minded enthusiasts connecting with others, according to EducationCloset, a digital learning hub.

On Thursday, an open house was held at Marquette Area Public Schools’ Makerspace, where students and others tinker and learn about emerging technology.

It was there that Lindgren demonstrated a CNC machine, which stands for Computer Numerical Control, an automated milling device used to make industrial components without direct human help.

“It curves out an image or object out of wood or any type of material,” Lindgren said. “It’s really cool.”

He spends a lot of time in Makerspace, even after school and even for a physics project dealing with a mousetrap-powered car.

“We used the resources we had in here to develop our project,” Lindgren said.

Becky Simmons, Makerspace director and science teacher, talked to the open house crowd about the special area, located on the second floor of the high school, as well as MAPS’ involvement in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition.

The MAPS Makerspace was created to become part of the Maker movement, she said.

“We want a place that we can have unique technology opportunities for our students, different from other classes,” Simmons said.

Even the furniture is unique; the tables, built by MSHS technology students, allow students to sit together and collaborate instead of being segregated by individual desks. The school’s building and construction classes also built the front desk out of locally harvested wood.

Equipment like Ultimaker 3D printers and computers are kept in another section of Makerspace.

Engineering and technology skills are being woven into science standards, so Makerspace helps students achieve those standards, said Simmons, who pointed out less time is being directed to science education, with testing in other subjects taking up teachers’ time.

“In a survey that we did, some of our teachers are teaching science only 20 minutes a week at elementary school,” Simmons said. “So, we’re trying to look for unique ways that we can get our secondary teachers into those classrooms to help support some of those teachers that are thinking like they can use more science or maybe a little help with teaching science, and come up with unique ways that they can get English, math and science, and technology and art, and really all subjects, into one project.”

There’s a waiting list for the one class that meets at Makerspace — Science for Inventors — although the MSHS Makers Club runs the space, which has open hours for high schoolers. Even the community can use it for a non-school activity, she said.

MAPS recently was named a state winner in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition, which came with a prize of $25,000 in Samsung technology. Eventually, 10 national finalists will be named and receive $50,000 each, with three national winners being awarded $150,000 each.

Energy independence in Marquette’s remote geographical location is a hot-button topic among the students, and that’s the focus of MAPS’ Samsung project.

“Solar was one of the most popular topics that kids wanted to learn more about, so that was kind of the reason why we picked this,” Simmons said. “Our goal is to understand the problem of energy, communicate with the public about it.”

Efficiency studies will be included, but so will solar power.

“It is our vision to install a Solar Lab in this space where we can study solar energy,” Simmons said. “That’s kind of the end point of this project.”

With a solar lab, students can perform activities that include:

≤ use cutting-edge technology that professionals would use.

≤ practice 3D modeling.

≤ understand how to analyze data and communicate that to an audience.

≤ understand how solar panels work and how a home might implement a solar system.

≤ perform calculations based on energy generated from solar panels to predict solar panel efficiency in the local climate zone.

≤ create and administer an community energy survey.

The Solar Lab will involve the installation of 18 solar panels and a Tesla powerwall battery system at the high school above the Makerspace, with the hope it will generate enough power to support the classroom’s energy needs.

Money from Samsung, however, won’t pay for the solar panels.

The public can support the MAPS Solar Lab Project through various levels: Platinum Level sponsor, $2,500; Diamond Level sponsor, $1,000; Sapphire Level sponsor, $500; Gold Level sponsor, $250; Silver Level sponsor, $100; and Bronze Level sponsor, $25. Checks may be sent to MAPS Makerspace Solar Lab, 1201 W. Fair Ave., Marquette, MI 49855. Donations also may be made online at http://bit.ly/MAPSsolar.

Ian Olmsted, owner of Peninsula Solar, based in Marquette, said his company has helped with the project by donating labor costs and getting materials at cost.

“I feel like, if I was in high school, and I got my hands on this way earlier, I could have cut to the chase a lot faster,” Olmsted said.

Such a project is multi-faceted.

“When you start getting into these rich projects that are real world, you’re fostering all these ideas, so many spokes, and really, it changes the role of a teacher,” Simmons said. “You’re not directly teaching anymore. You’re a ringleader. You’re a cheerleader. You’re a problem-solver, and you’re just trying to just help funnel these kids into where their passions lie and help push them to the next level.”

For more information, contact Simmons at rsimmons@mapsnet.org.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.