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


Makerspace Post Week: A MakerBridge Exclusive

As regular blog readers may know, occasionally MakerBridge does what we call “Fifth Monday” posts, in which the MakerBridge bloggers all write on the same topic. This week, we are trying something a little similar but a little different--we’ll be posting once a day all week, each discussing the same question: how do you define a makerspace?


Image Credit: Milwaukee Makerspace Meeting by Pete Prodoehl on Flickr


I think that makerspaces get defined in a lot of different ways, and that people often choose one thing or another to focus on in order to determine what counts as a makerspace. For example, many people strongly associate makerspaces with 3D printing, while some think of it as a workshop-like environment full of tools.


In my personal view, the most important elements of a makerspace are people and sharing. If a person works on DIY projects alone in her garage, I would consider her a maker but I wouldn’t say the garage is a makerspace. If a space has a 3D printer and a laser cutter but people use the tools independently and don’t interact much, I wouldn’t consider that space a makerspace. Tools and projects and technology matter, but for me, a makerspace means people working together, sharing ideas, and teaching each other. It means people working together as a team to create. To me, collaboration and the learning that comes with it are huge parts of the maker movement, and are also what set the movement apart from the type of DIY projects and work that people were already doing before making took off the way it has. Of course, this is not to say no one collaborated before, but I think these type of interactions and this sharing of knowledge are central to the maker movement.


Agree or disagree? What do you think a makerspace is? Keep watching the blog this week for other opinions, and let us know your thoughts on Twitter or in the comments!



A Charter for Your Makerspace

Image showing the words, "Make things for other people," a quote from Mythbusters' Adam Savage


I got to talk a lot with educators and librarians this summer about makerspaces, maker-friendly culture, and even (gasp) assessment of maker work. Now I'm back in the rhythm of the school year, with a bit more desk time during which I can reflect on all I have learned and solidified in my mind since the last school year - and maker season -- came to a close. For a long time, I've been reminding folks to "know their purpose" and how important it is to have an answer for why you're adopting/hosting/creating a makerspace.

It could be to support academics, to supplement academics, to bring in new faces, to provide a safe and social space, to develop soft skills that our frenetically-paced classrooms can no longer make time for, etc. Just saying it's about STEM or "21st-century" isn't enough ... what exactly about STEM are you developing? Because let's face it ... STEM is a pretty wide set of fields, and just think of how most the projects we hear about related to STEM are really mostly about technology and engineering.

Poor M ... the poor relation of T and E.  So what part of STEM are you going for? Collaborative skills so kids can code in pairs? Animal identification to support biology class? Geometry skills to help future mosaic makers? Memorized multiplication tables so engineers can calculate more quickly in their head?

I'm being a little bit snide here,  but the point is that if you don't have a clear understanding of what you want your makerspace to accomplish, then it's harder to get buy-in, donations, attendees, volunteers, etc. And, as a result, your makerspace is more likely to be a fad that will pass in a few years instead of a vibrant space. I have used words like "purpose" or "the spine of your makerspace" to describe this to others and have suggested that they take advantage of Mark Hatch's invitation to hack the Maker Manifesto (first chapter available free here) as a launching point for conversations.

One of the smartest thinkers I ran into on my summer travels suggested the use of the word "charter" instead, meaning a working agreement, which bears great promise as being even more direct about roles, purposes, outcomes, etc., than a manifesto (and sound slightly less Marxist to conservative ears?). Another option -- either to launch a discussion or to hack (with attribution, of course) is to have your planning team examine and discuss this video of Mythbusters' Adam Savage, talking about his Ten Commandments of Making as a starting point for your makerspace's Big Ideas:

  1. Make something
  2. Make something useful
  3. Start right now
  4. Find a project
  5. Ask for help, advice, and feedback
  6. Share
  7. Recognize that discouragement and failure is part of the project
  8. Measure carefully
  9. Make things for other people
  10. Use more cooling fluid

I see most of these play out in our most successful maker pilot site (exception: cooling fluid, but hey, the kids are ten years old). Notice how nine of them are about mindset and preparation for making, not tools or skills, which reinforces what we've found all along in our Michigan Makers work: that making without maker culture is a series of activity stations. Making with a robust culture that thinks about the items that Savage discusses above? It's a makerspace. And it's feels better, too.  


Canning Your Own Food

In recent years, I've met more and more people who can and preserve their own food. When a friend gave me a jar of peach and blueberry preserves that she canned herself, I started thinking about this even more. At this time of year, I'm always buying too much at the farmers market and then scrambling to find things to do with it all. What, exactly, does it take to get into canning your own food? Is it the kind of project that could be undertaken in a library, school, or makerspace? 

I've done some preliminary investigating, and here's what I've found out. 

Basic supplies

1. A source of information about what on earth you're doing. If you can find an expert, that sounds desirable. A New York Times article also recommended the National Center for Home Food Preservation, which has the support of the USDA, the University of Georgia, and Alabama A&M (among others). The same article also recommends Pick Your Own as a site that translates the NCHFP page into plainer English. My own searching also turned up some straightforward-sounding instructions from Better Homes and Gardens.

2. Mason jars with lids (images)

3. Boiling water canner or pressure canner (definitely a pressure canner if you're canning foods that aren't very acidic)

4. A jar lifter (images)

5. A spatula

6. Lots of boiling water for sterilizing jars

7. Better Homes and Gardens also suggests a jar funnel and a magnetic lid wand (both of which sound like they would simplify the process immensely).

8. Food to can!

What to do with those supplies

Follow directions from experts! Apparently the health and safety standards for canning food have changed a lot in relatively recent years, so you probably want to do some reading before you dig out your grandma's old recipes. You can get food poisoning if you don't do things properly. That being said, here are some sets of directions I found:

1. National Center for Home Food Preservation, "Using Boiling Water Canners" and "Using Pressure Canners."

2. Better Homes and Gardens, "General Canning Steps."

3. Pick Your Own, "Directions for Home Water Bath Canning" and "Home Pressure Canning Foods."

Are libraries, museums, etc. already teaching this?

Some of them are! You'd definitely need a kitchen setup to be able to pull this off, but once you've got that, the canning equipment doesn't appear to be terribly expensive. Some libraries I turned up who are already into canning include:

1. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, CA: Family Cooking Class: Homemade Preserves. (I love how it sounds like they're tying this into WWI history!)

2. Historic Waco Foundation in Waco, TX: Victorian Harvest Time.

3. Campbell Library in Campbell, CA: DIY: Preserving Fruits and Vegetables


Do we have any readers who can their own food? I'd be curious to hear more in the way of dos and don'ts, and tasty recipes!


#MakeHealth Brings Together Health, Tech, and Design

Earlier this month, we took you inside the We Make Health Fest, one of the first events to bring together a maker festival with a health fair. After attending on August 16th, I’m happy to report that the Fest was a definite success. There was plenty to do, from a speaker schedule packed with fascinating talks throughout the entire day to an exhibitors area featuring a wide range of projects, products, and ideas.



Some highlights for me personally were a superhero comic book about a boy with diabetes (I am a big fan of comics), Lia Min’s presentation of her comic about autism (comics again!), a shirt that helps detect early warning signs of heart attacks called MyoAlert, and a woman who helps dementia patients with her photorealistic mosaics.


Trevor Torres and Jake Dwyer show off their comic about a boy with diabetes


One of the things I took away from the event was the amazing amount of enthusiasm and energy I saw. I spoke with one attendee who was a technologist and had come to the event with no idea what participatory healthcare or patient-centered design was. After hearing the keynote, things clicked for him and he was instantly excited about all the possibilities he saw at the intersection of the maker movement and the field of healthcare, already considering how he could apply this new knowledge to his mother’s health situation. Another woman was attending the festival with an idea in mind she had already planned out, hoping to find designers she could collaborate with to make it a reality. The organizers’ goal of bringing together healthcare workers, technologists, and designers played itself out in the best possible way, generating excitement, unique ideas, and new connections throughout the day.


e-NABLE is an organization that creates 3D printed prosthetic hands for those in need

Another really positive takeaway for me was the diversity I noticed both among the people and the projects. Initially, I was concerned; the trailer for the documentary Maker, which was being screened at the event, focuses predominantly on white men, and I knew both of the keynote speakers were men. Recognizing diversity in the maker movement is an issue we’ve spoken about previously on MakerBridge. I came away from the event feeling reassured, however. In fact, the We Make Health Fest seemed more diverse to me in terms of attendees, speakers, and exhibitors than many maker faires I’ve been to. I was also pleased to see projects all along the technological complexity spectrum. It’s important to understand that making moves beyond just circuits and 3D printing, and I felt the We Make Health Fest did a good job recognizing that idea.



Creating photo-realistic mosaics with Starry Night Mosaics


Be sure to check out our Flickr album and the Make Health Fest Flickr group for more photos of the event! Did you attend? What was your favorite part? Tweet at us or let us know in the comments!