Impact Stories

  • Jaia Kaufman

Hands-On, Personalized Learning Through the Stanley Makerspace

According to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, “The ability to think critically and effectively problem solve should be established at a young age and cultivated over time. These skills are fundamental to and enhanced by the learning experiences in a makerspace.” Stanley Middle School students are fortunate to have just such a space, which is accessed primarily through the Imagineering elective taught by Mr. Connolly.

The makerspace is a room where 21st-century tools such as a 3D printer, laser cutter, vinyl cutter, poster printers, silk screen press, sublimation press, embroidery machine, and various other tools are housed for students to use while designing, inventing, and creating.

In Imagineering, students learn how to create 2D and 3D models, basic electronics, basic engineering, drafting, and digital design. They learn how to solder and utilize the equipment in the first half of the year by doing mini projects that teach specific skills. These projects include LED hearts, wooden laser-cut boxes, and 3D-printed flashlights.

Once the students master the skills they need in the first half of the year, they put them to use making a final, second-semester-long project. This year, the students are making "Trade Stimulators,” machines designed to carry out a specific action when a coin is inserted. The students are making a wide range of projects including vending machines, games, and prize or fortune dispensers. One student said, “This is my favorite project due to it containing many individual elements like soldering, laser cutting / engraving, and 3D printing.” He also described how he is benefiting from the class, “I’ve gained many real world skills like modeling in CAD and controlling CNC [Computer Numerical Control] machines. It serves as a nice break from traditional school.”

Mr. Connolly explained that in addition to the students learning hands-on skills in electronics, engineering, digital design, and programming, “The most important thing about the class is the freedom to try, fail, and try again. The students brainstorm, design, develop, test, redesign, retest, create, decorate, and display their work.” He continues, “Hopefully these kids will be fearless in their pursuit of knowledge because of the class.”

A student says she likes Imagineering as it is a combination of many disciplines such as art, wood tech, engineering, computers, and design all in one class and that she appreciates the flexibility within the projects: “The only limit to what you make is your imagination.” And another appreciates that the class provides “Freedom to figure out solutions on your own.”

LPIE is proud to fund 24 electives sections at Stanley including Imagineering and other STEAM classes.