MAKER SPACE

Cecil Whig - - WE ATHE R -

fil­ters and pipe clean­ers to con­struct a para­chute of sorts on top of a cup or tap­ing pop­si­cles to a cup to make it heav­ier.

There are no wrong an­swers — and no real right ones ei­ther. The stu­dents’ abil­ity to think cre­atively is the only limit and that, even more so than the va­ri­ety of tech­nol­ogy lin­ing the room, is what the Per­ryville Mid­dle Mak­erspace is all about.

“I al­most al­ways say ‘ Go for it,’” said Scott Del­losso, a PVMS teacher who heads up the Mak­erspace. “I don’t want this to look like a reg­u­lar class­room.”

Mak­erspaces, which can best be de­scribed as a cross be­tween the DIY move­ment and the lat­est tech­no­log­i­cal trends, have re­cently be­gun crop­ping up all over the coun­try. Ce­cil County got its first Mak­erspace last spring when one opened at Rudy Park in Elk­ton but the Per­ryville space is the first at a county school.

At PVMS, the coun­ters on the side of the class­room are lined with the lat­est tech­nol­ogy, in­clud­ing Sphero ro­bots, two 3-D print­ers, pod­cast­ing equip­ment and a green screen. One unas­sum­ing card­board box is sim­ply la­beled “drones.”

The ma­jor­ity of that tech­nol­ogy is funded through grants from lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions in­clud­ing the IKEA Dis­tri­bu­tion Cen­ter in Per­ryville, the Town of Per­ryville, the Port De­posit VFW, W.L. Gore and York Build­ing Prod­ucts as well as the Mary­land State Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion and CCPS.

All that tech­nol­ogy not only at­tracts grants, it serves as a pretty good ad­ver­tise­ment for the space it­self, so Del­losso said he wasn’t sur­prised when he re­ceived more than 50 ap­pli­ca­tions to join when he launched the Mak­erspace at the be­gin­ning of the school year. He ac­cepted 54 of those ap­pli­ca­tions, with more still on a wait­list, and also had nine teach­ers and a high school stu­dent vol­un­teer to help out.

Jim Lewis, an eighth­grader at the school, signed up specif­i­cally to use the 3-D print­ers, not­ing that ob­jects that would have taken days and mul­ti­ple ma­chines to make years ago can now be cre­ated with the click of a mouse.

“This is what tech ed­u­ca­tion should be,” he said. “It should be about what the tech­nol­ogy is go­ing to be in 20 or 30 years.”

That’s a state­ment Del­losso whole­heart­edly agrees with, point­ing to a U. S. Depart­ment of La­bor study that found that 65 per­cent of stu­dents en­ter­ing school to­day will even­tu­ally work in jobs that haven’t been in­vented yet. It’s a phi­los­o­phy Del­losso has been ap­ply­ing for years by im­ple­ment­ing sim­i­lar tech­nol­ogy with the Des­ti­na­tion Imag­i­na­tion teams he coaches at Per­ryville Mid­dle and Per­ryville High School.

But those teams can only have about seven stu­dents each so when a class­room opened up at Per­ryville Mid­dle this year, Del­losso re­al­ized a Mak­erspace would be the per­fect way to of­fer these op­por­tu­ni­ties to more kids.

The Mak­erspace ses­sions gen­er­ally take place for about an hour and a half af­ter school on Tues­days and con­sist of an open maker ac­tiv­ity, such as the wind tun­nel task, fol­lowed by some more struc­tured in­struc­tion time and then in­di­vid­ual work time. On a re­cent Tues­day, af­ter com­plet­ing the wind tun­nel task, stu­dents could chose be­tween fin­ish­ing cod­ing video games they’d started ear­lier or us­ing the 3-D print­ers to cre­ate a square on a Mak­erspace quilt.

The chance to learn cod­ing was what at­tracted eighth-grader Rylie Fre­burger to join the Mak­erspace. While cod­ing has been a lit­tle harder than she ini­tially thought, Fre­burger said she’s still en­joy­ing it and is look­ing for­ward to learn­ing how to code for the Sphero ro­bots and the drones.

“It’s re­ally fun, but there’s not enough girls,” Fre­burger said, look­ing around the room where the boys out­num­bered the girls prac­ti­cally five to one.

Del­losso and the other teach­ers help­ing out with the Mak­erspace have no­ticed the gen­der gap too and some of the girls re­cently sat down with two of the fe­male teach­ers to brain­storm ways to get more girls in­volved in the fu­ture.

Other changes are ahead for the Mak­erspace too, Del­losso said. Af­ter win­ter break, the Mak­erspace will likely tran­si­tion to a fo­cus on small group work with stu­dents get­ting to sign up for ac­tiv­i­ties such as pod­cast­ing, 3-D print­ing or even stained-glass mak­ing. This will al­low more stu­dents, in­clud­ing those on the wait­list, to join since not all the groups would have to phys­i­cally meet in the Mak­erspace, he noted.

Del­losso also hopes to con­tinue his ef­forts to train other Per­ryville Mid­dle teach­ers on how to use the tech­nol­ogy in the Mak­erspace so they can take their classes there dur­ing the school day.

But so far, Del­losso is pleased with how it’s go­ing and thinks in­ter­est will only grow.

“It’s im­por­tant for (the stu­dents) to start think­ing out of the box,” he said. “These are kids that are look­ing to learn about tech­nol­ogy, look­ing for ways to ex­press them­selves cre­atively and this gives them a new way to do that.”

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JES­SICA IAN­NETTA

Dur­ing a re­cent ses­sion at the Per­ryville Mid­dle School Mak­erspace, stu­dents used straws and card­board to cre­ate a maze for a mar­ble to go on.

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