Shout out to these awesome organizations!

Here at MakerBridge we make an effort to advocate for diversity and inclusion in the maker culture and the technology industry. Some of our previous posts have covered Black Makers, LGBTQ+ inclusivity in maker culture, women in technology, and STEAM education for girls and young people of color.
Since our last post highlighting diverse groups in the maker movement and hacker culture, I have come across several more organizations that are devoted to increasing minority engagement and employment in the tech industry that we have not yet covered.
TransTechSocial is an organization that works to educate trans and gender nonconforming people with technology skill training, professional apprenticeships, and navigating the higher ed financial aid system. They work to empower trans and gender nonconforming people by providing leadership training and supporting racial and social justice causes. TransTechSocial also works to employ trans and gender nonconforming people by providing resume and interview training, networking, and education on employee rights.
CodeNow works to diversify the technology industry by engaging young women and people of color in computer science and technology educational opportunities. Their main program centers on providing workshops that teach computer programming to underrepresented high school students.
Maven also fosters the diversification of the technology industry by providing LGBTQ youth with opportunity to build technical skills, engage with social justice causes, and encourage networking between LGBTQ youth, youth services/nonprofits, and other groups of young LGBTQ youth across the nation. Maven provides a safe (virtual and physical!) space for LGBTQ teens to investigate their identity and to build confidence via practical technology skills, experience, and mentorship.
Have comments? Questions? Let us know in the comments below, or message us on twitter @makerbridge!

Master of Arts in Education Technology Maker Day at Michigan State University Library

This week's guest post comes to us from Jill Morningstar and Terence O'Neill, who work as librarians at Michigan State University. In it, they discuss Maker Day, a recent event. Read on for more!

The inaugural MAET Maker Day at Michigan State University Libraries came together perfectly, and would not have been possible without the dedicated students and faculty in the hybrid MAET program. The Master of Arts in Educational Technology program enrolls current K-12 teachers who want to expand their knowledge in the realm of educational technology. Many students become Technology Integration Specialists, Instructional Designers, and Technology Consultants in their schools. The program takes about two years to complete and is mostly online. Students spend a little over two weeks on campus at Michigan State University for intensive face-to-face training over the summer, and one of the major assignments for first year cohorts is to create a maker activity to integrate into their classrooms. 

Led by Dr. Leigh Graves Wolf and Dr. Michelle Schira Hagerman, the MAET 1 cohort spent their two weeks of face-to-face time meeting with librarians and planning their maker activities. With the help of instructors Craig McMichael, who teaches at Detroit Catholic Central and is a current faculty member at both MSU and Wayne State University, and Spencer Greenhalgh, PhD candidate at MSU in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology (EPET), along with a few of our librarian colleagues, MAET students spent one hour of each packed day planning their activities at the library. They were able to spend time working in our brand new REAL (Rooms for Engaged and Active Learning) classroom and they even had a personal showing of the library’s Makerbot before we had unveiled it to the public. The students were inspired by their time spent in the library, and of course their instructors and each other, which led to the amazing turnout on Maker Day. 

On the day of the event, the library simply set the stage and allowed for the MAET students to run their workshops, trying out their ideas with real live audiences from a variety of age groups. As a great example of the low startup needs for running Maker activities, we set up the workshops in a variety of library rooms with little rearrangement needed.

Over sixty children, MSU students, and practitioners of all sorts stopped in at each of the workshops distributed at different points in our building. The size of the crowd was perfect for the small group instruction and hands-on engagement that makes these types of activities particularly effective for technology education. Here were the workshops conducted by the MAET students:

- “Human Drum Kit”: using MaKey MaKey, Scratch, and a computer’s sound system, MAET students designed a program where participants united circuits to signify different parts of a drum kit. Touch that person’s shoulder for a cymbal, this one’s knee for a bass drum, and *gently* tap your new friend’s bald head for a cowbell.

- “Playing With Your Food”: This group used MaKey MaKey and Scratch to enable the creation and manipulation of video games based on the completion of circuits using items from the kitchen.

- “And a third tied together geography and cultural studies, creating an interactive map that lit up LED lights for the home of each participant.

The workshops were a huge success, as the MAET students got practice running workshops, the library got to experiment with different types of Maker workshops, and participants got to have some fun and learn a bit, too. As our library continues to think about how to engage with and support our community as they pursue their scholarship and teaching, we hope that collaborating with the Master of Arts in Education Technology will continue to reveal what’s happening on the cutting edge. 

To learn more about the Master of Arts in Education Technology, visit their website here: And if you’re in the area, feel free to visit MSU’s library and see how we’re using 3D Printing and our Espresso Book Machine to enable our students and professors to create the next generation of education deliverables.


Everybody In: Diversity in Making

This week we have a guest post from the awesome folks at Maker Jawn Initiative in Philadelphia. We love the work they do; read on to learn more about it, and be sure to check out their blog, as well!



Hi MakerBridge readers! We’re the Maker Jawn Initiative; a team of artistically-minded engineers, designers, and thinkers who run maker-based mentoring programs at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Our programing focuses on experimentation, play, and interest-driven learning. This means that we receive input from students and facilitate programming based around their interests. It also means we work on a wide variety of projects that include, but are far from limited to, copper tape circuitry, e-textiles, video production, mask making, and gardening. Sustainability important to us, so we tend to use inexpensive and reclaimed materials for projects. We also believe that libraries are perfect for maker spaces! Neighborhood libraries provide one of the few safe places where diversity of race, gender, and age is respected, and that makes them a special environment for learning.




Our program is nimble. We don’t have dedicated spaces, and primarily work out of bins of materials, stashed at each neighborhood library our mentors are present in. We hope that other communities and institutions with less funding opportunities will see models like ours, and realize that a makerspace is a possibility for them. The same quality of learning (or better) can happen with inexpensive supplies, and a flexible and dedicated staff, as in a well funded space with lots of gadgets and tech.  In underserved communities where access to STEAM-based education is minimal, the most important aspect of the maker movement is it’s ability to teach creative thinking and a DIY mentality. The tech aspect is secondary.  



During the school year, we provide after-school programming at six neighborhood libraries in North Philadelphia, a part of the city that is 61.6% African-American and 32.5% Hispanic. Fewer than 2% of adults in these neighborhoods are employed in scientific and technical fields, with 65.46% of households earning less than $25,000 annually.  We believe that this is the type of neighborhood where maker spaces are needed most. Through our programming we seek to create a dialogue about race, socio-economics, and gender within the Maker community, in an attempt change these statistics. In America, the fields of science and engineering have been historically dominated by white males, and until recently, Maker culture has been no different. We hope that our program encourages those who haven't been encouraged before, and sparks interest in those who have been waiting for a spark.



Through an opportunity from the Institute of Museums and Library Services, Maker Jawn will be expanding beyond programming for kids and teens and will be providing multi-generational education. It will be interesting to see how programing changes when we have people of all ages learning side by side. Along with this, we’re hoping to explore new hiring practices, with the hope that we can transition enthusiastic members of the community from their role as participants, to paid mentor positions. We’re aiming for a model that will ultimately empower communities in a sustainable way. Currently, our staff and our participants look very different. Our mentors are primarily white, college educated, and from backgrounds where they’ve had access to education, support, and opportunity. The goal is for mentors to better reflect the communities our maker programming serves.



Keeping learning gender neutral is also something we strive for, and struggle with. It’s really interesting, as an educator, to monitor and keep in check your own biases towards gender norms. We’re often surprised to hear ourselves call things that girls make “pretty” or “cute”, while using other adjectives like “cool” or “awesome” for the work of boys. Some of this stuff is so ingrained, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. And sometimes, maybe we do it because we think it will please the kids, which is a bit cowardly. We are so worried about losing their interest or participation, that we won’t comment when they say something gendered. And how much should an educator push their personal beliefs on their students? Sometimes there’s a fine line between prompting your students to rethink some of their behaviours and perceptions, and pushing your own moral agenda.


We try as much as we can to remain neutral unless a child is saying something particularly, harmful, hurtful, or negative. How much should we comment on our girls’ interest in princesses? And does it matter, if the way to get them to be interested in making a robot, is by making a princess robot? Even if you are keeping your space free of gender norms and stereotypes, you are still dealing with the messages kids are getting at home, at school, and from the media, which can vary greatly from kid to kid. Recently, a mentor had a 13 year old girl come in with a t-shirt that said “Jezebel: You toil at work all day for nothing, meanwhile your man is spending his money on me, and you’ll never know”. How do you deal with something like that? It can be tough and awkward to initiate a conversation around these situations.



No matter the child’s gender or background, our goal is to build confidence, take things slowly, and have students develop hard skills at their own pace. By making the activities interest-driven and providing more structure for students that require it, we can attempt to meet the needs of children with different learning styles and interests.

Maker Jawn will be blogging its experiences, struggles, and success as it pilots its new model for multi-generational learning. We think that keeping this conversation going and continually being reflective about what we’re learning and observing, and how that’s informing our program, is the best way to keep an initiative healthy. Stay tuned! You can follow along at




Things I saw at World Maker Faire

1. Lots of white guys on stage

Ok, I didn’t actually see all of them; I counted them up on the website.  There were 15 time slots on Saturday, the day I was there.  On the first stage listed, the schedule for Saturday listed one woman who had a session of her own.  Two other sessions included names of co-presenters who seem likely to be women.  The co-presenting women didn’t get their pictures included by the session names, although their presentation partners did.  Also, it’s a *very* white list, when you scroll through the pictures.

“But wait!” you say, “There are other stages!”  Why yes, there are.  Still overwhelmingly white, but at least women saw some representation... on the Education stage.  And no, there’s nothing wrong with women as educators.  As a librarian, I put myself into that category.  But doesn’t that feel just a *little* bit stereotypical to anyone else out there, that that's the only stage showing strong female representation?  

And before anyone suggests that it’s easier to find good male speakers for making-related topics, I would like to say that the one session I went to, which was presented by a white guy, was easily the least interesting part of my day at Maker Faire.  One of the people I was with almost fell asleep.  You can’t tell me that there weren’t any more-diverse speakers available who would have been at least that good.  I’m just not buying it.  Make, you can do better!

2. Lots of people not onstage, who were having a blast

All the wonderful things I’ve come to expect of Maker Faire were there--they just weren’t onstage.  I saw all kinds of people making and showing off all kinds of cool things.  Needle felting, making puppets, taking apart computers, learning to solder or pick locks, showing off robots and t-shirts and full-body controllers for video games, you name it. 

I got to talk to some FeMaidens, who were there showing off their Aerial Assist robot.  I left them with intense jealousy that I can’t list robotics club among the things I did in high school.

feMaidens and their robot

I also got to see cool new projects, like SAM, which strikes me as a more versatile and coding-friendly version of LittleBits. Plus there was Kit Rex. I think they said they will be putting up their dinosaur costume on Kickstarter soon, and that is just plain fun.  Who doesn’t want their own cardboard dinosaur costume??  

Kit Rex partial costume

3. Lots of people to connect to

We’re always saying on MakerBridge that educators should reach out to the people they meet at events like World Maker Faire.  It’s worth repeating.  But what I especially love is that even if I’m too shy to approach someone in person (or, for that matter, can’t make it to the Maker Faire at all!) I can still find the conversation on Twitter and identify new people to follow who are doing and talking about interesting things.  For me, at least, it’s a lot easier to bring myself to tweet at a stranger than it is to strike up a conversation in person!

Was anyone else at World Maker Faire, or one of the other Maker Faires that have been going on in the past couple weeks?  Did you see anything especially interesting?



Makerspace Funding

Image of a chalkboard with the words, "Please, sir, I want some more" from Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist

We received a Twitter request and a query during a recent presentation about funding for makerspaces. Here are some ideas:


Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) - This is the federal government's funding agency for museums and libraries. New funding for libraries include STEM and Learning Spaces in Libraries. They have stated that they prefer to fund capacity-building (e.g., professional development, staff growth) over equipment, however.

MEEMIC Foundation Grants for educators - usually $500 - $1000 (they also link to other grant-funding ideas here) and - Can you create a great video pitch for why your community needs what you plan to purchase? And, perhaps, time it so you can publicize it in your next round of marketing materials? Can you set up a dedicated station in your library near the front door where people can pledge? Then this crowdfunding avenue might be right for you.

Donors Choose for educators - a crowdfunding site for teachers

Library Grants blog - posts links to available grants

TechSoup - A not-for-profit that connects other nonprofits, charities, foundations, or public libraries with "technology products and services, plus teh free learning resources you need to make informed technology decisions and investments.""

Local Organizations

Sometimes, if you partner with another organization, you can find a synergy that allows you to pool your resources. Maybe you have a great room full of tables, free parking, and time on Sunday evenings when the library is closed and the site is dormant. Maybe you can partner with an organization that has a supplies budget but nowhere to meet. Consider how you might work collaboratively with one of the groups below with existing resources or by partnering together on a grant.

Girl Scouts

Boy Scouts


Local makerspaces and hackerspaces

Local hardware stores

Local robotics, quilting, sewing, knitting, crocheting, woodworking, pottery, or other arts and crafts groups

Local writers and illustrators groups

Chamber of Commerce

School district

Service organizations (Kiwanis, Lions Club, Knights of Columbus, etc.)

University programs and student groups

Retirees and/or independent living facilities

Local/regional economic development authorities 

Local theatre groups who have money to buy supplies for productions but need volunteers to help make props, costumes, and sets

Large corporations or universities who regularly discard technology and other equipment (see Cory Doctorow's post on Raincoast Books for inspiration)

Thanks to John Burke's Makerspace Resources page for reminding us of some funding ideas!


- Kristin Fontichiaro


ICYMI - #libs4ada



Here at makerbridge we’re big fans of the Ada Initiative and we’ve written about them several times before. This post is about the recent #libs4ada funding drive that took place over the last two weeks or so.


Around September 10th, Andromeda Yelton, Bess Sadler, Chris Bourg, and Mark Matienzo announced that they would match all donations from librarians to the Ada Initiative, up to $5120. When that goal was met in the first 24 hours they announced further stretch goals with humorous and adorable incentives. To date, the #libs4ada funding drive has raised over $20,000 for the Ada Initiative!


The Ada Initiative’s funding drive for 2014 goes through October 8th. If you’re a member of the library community, you should donate here. If you’re not a member of the library community but you still want to donate to this awesome organization, donate here.

Tell us why you love the Ada Initiative on twitter @makerbridge!


What is a Makerspace? (Day 5)

Here at MakerBridge, we've each taken a turn this week defining what makerspaces mean to us. Today, as we wrap up our five-day series, we think about how others define it. Here are some definitions from around MakerWorld.


"A makerspace is a physical location where people gather together to share resources and knowledge, work on projects, network, and build. Makerspaces provide tools and space in a community environment – a library, community center, private organization, or campus. Expert advisors may be available some of the time, but often novices get help from other users. The makerspace – sometimes referred to as a hackerspace – is often associated with fields such as engineering, computer science, and graphic design. The concept emerges from the technology-driven “maker culture,” associated with Make magazine and the Maker Faires it promotes. This idea of a collaborative studio space for creative endeavors has caught hold in education, where the informal combination of lab, shop, and conference room form a compelling argument for learning through hands-on exploration. On campus, the makerspace is being embraced by the arts as well as the sciences, and a new energy is building around multidisciplinary collaborative efforts." - Educause


"The maker movement in libraries is about teaching our patrons to think for themselves, to think creatively, and to look for do-it-yourself solutions before running off to the store. In short, a makerspace is a place where people come together to create with technology."- Caitlin A. Bagley, ALA TechSource


"Makerspaces, sometimes also referred to as hackerspaces, hackspaces, and fablabs are creative, DIY spaces where people can gather to create, invent, and learn.""- Ellysa Kroski, OEDb


"It's the place where an idea turns into a thing. A makerspace is the distance between your head and your hands." - Allison Parker, Make It At Your Library


"I like using a simple definition for Maker Spaces: “A shared work area where people build things collaboratively.” - Michael Groenendyk in Public Libraries News


“[A] way to bring together generations of learners who can share and build on each others’ knowledge and skills that will benefit both the individual and the community.” - Peggy Watts


“It’s not the tools and resources that define a makerspace -- A makerspace is defined by what the people create using the available information and resources." - Patrick Molvick


"Diversity and cross-pollination of activities are critical to the design, making and exploration process, and they are what set makerspaces and STEAM labs apart from single-use spaces." - Jennifer Cooper, Edutopia


Your turn ... how do you define it? 


- Kristin Fontichiaro



Makerspace Post Week: A MakerBridge Exclusive (Day 4)

Today marks the fourth day in our special MakerBridge post week. So far, Sharona, Kristin, and Emily have already talked about each of their own definitions of what a makerspace is, anyway.


I very much agree that a makerspace doesn’t need to be a permanent space. I would also say that a makerspace can exist when you least expect it. An area does not need to be designated a makerspace in order to be one, nor do planned maker related activities or time frames need to exist for making to occur.


A makerspace can occur in any of these places or designations to be sure, but I think it’s important to remember that just because a space isn’t called a “makerspace” or a set of tools isn’t what you would normally think of when you think of “making”, but whether or not you and others can create something new out of them.


The most important aspects of a makerspace to me, then, are imagination, collaboration, and a community that fosters experimentation and creativity.  



Makerspace Post Week: A MakerBridge Exclusive (Day 3)

Today, we continue our special week in which we take turns sharing our definition of a makerspace.

If you've been following the MakerBridge blog this week, you know that Sharona and Kristin have already laid down their own definitions of makerspaces, emphasizing community, shared resources, and space. I'm on board with everything they've said so far. That said, I want to highlight the fact that in my mind a sense of community and shared resources are the most important parts of a makerspace. Without those, you might have a maker, or you might have a tools library, but you don't have a makerspace.

This is not to discount the importance of having an actual location for a makerspace. You do need a location. Just because a makerspace needs to be a space, though, it doesn't follow that it needs to be a permanent space. I love projects like Eden Rassette's pop-up makerspace kit, which is full of craft supplies. Teen Librarian Toolbox's pop-up makerspace with Legos, duct tape, and Raspberry Pis makes me happy, too. These are basically just boxes of tools and supplies. On their own they're not makerspaces. When you put them somewhere, open them up, and add a gaggle of users sharing ideas and helping each other out--that is definitely a makerspace!

On a larger and more expensive scale, Maker Shed sells portable cabinets full of tools, and even companies like Google are getting behind the idea of pop-up makerspaces. And at the opposite end of the spectrum, I think you could make a pretty strong case for a coffee shop or bar being a makerspace during those wonderful hours when knitting and crocheting circles meet there, with everyone sharing patterns, advice, hooks, and needles.

A makerspace is anywhere makers get together and share resources. It doesn't matter if that's a classroom, a coffee shop, someone's backyard, or a massive space dedicated full-time to maker activities.


Makerspace Post Week: A MakerBridge Exclusive (Day 2)


This week, we continue our special week in which we take turns sharing our definition of a makerspace.

I spend much of my time during the academic year in Michigan Makers, after-school mobile makerspace projects in local K-12 schools. I often start to describe maker culture by quoting two people. First, Dale Grover of Maker Works, who says that makerspaces are "tools plus support plus community." I might also quote Thomas (2013), who uses the triad of people, process, and place. 

Definitely community. Definitely process. Definitely shared tools. Definitely space.

Yet when I step back and really think about it, what is it that makes my Spidey sense say, in the midst of a maker activity, "Ahhh, this is it!"? That takes me a bit longer to verbalize. Then I realize that it's a feeling that comes over me, some combination of seeing and hearing, that tells me we're in the zone or what Czikszentmihalyi (2004) calls "flow." 

I know our makerspace is working when I look around and realize every kid is working on something that interests him/her and, for one brief moment, they're doing it without me. (Don't get me wrong: mini-lessons and peer instruction are critical for skill development, but after 45 minutes of threading needles, a moment when everyone is in the groove is a wonderful feeling.)

Maybe one kid is showing another how to use the stop-motion animation app she likes. Another is manning the Silhouette Cameo, showing a peer how to rearrange elements and "weld" them together. Someone else is spending some solo time with LEGO; a boy is running the foot pedal on a sewing machine while a mentor guides the fabric, and a girl is churning out handmade infinity scarves for her friends. Some kids are in the hall, competing to keep their gliders in the air. In those moments, I sense what Dewey (1900) called a student's "center of gravity," when they're settled into themselves, concentrating on what they chose to work on, and intently focused. I feel the same sense when I visit Ann Arbor's Maker Works and All Hands Active: a kind of focus even within a larger social setting.

To quote a certain judge, it's something where "I know it when I see it." And when I see it, it's a pretty magical moment.

- Kristin Fontichiaro

Photo from the Michigan Makers project; copyright 2012 Regents of the University of Michigan