Two Makerspace Grants for the New Year

Two St. Vrain schools, Westview Middle School in Longmont, and Centennial Elementary School in Firestone, have been awarded foundation grants in support of their leading-edge, hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education programs.

Westview has been awarded a $2,000 grant from the Longmont-based Micron Foundation to develop its student-designed robotics “makerspace,” while Centennial has received one of its largest grants ever, a $7,000 Innovation Station Fund grant from the Ft. Collins-based OtterCares Foundation to enhance its existing makerspace, the Innovation Lab (no connection to the grant name).

A makerspace is a collaborative workshop in which learners problem-solve, envision and imagine, experiment, make, build and re-vision, typically while using high-tech tools.

“With the OtterCares grant, we can buy a 3D printer to make prototypes more realistic, Lego WEDO kits to combine building with technology and a mobile magnet wall so students can learn about science concepts in a hands-on way,” Erin Murphy, Innovation Lab teacher at Centennial.

“Our goal is to provide learning opportunities for all students including those who learn best through technology and those who prefer to learn with other materials.” Purchasing will begin in January or February, she said.

Murphy is stationed full-time at the Innovation Lab. Each class visits the Innovation Lab for 45-minutes weekly, except half-day kindergarteners, who visit monthly.

“They are learning hands-on creating skills that we do not usually see any more in schools,” Jessica Dieken, OtterCares marketing coordinator, said. “That is why we are such fans of this. They are able to ideate, create and fail – learning that they can figure out why something did not work.”

“Failure is not the end of the world,” Dieken said. “We want them to fail fast and fail forward –  just because something did not work, you don’t stop. There is always a way to keep moving.”

At Westview, the winning student plan for a redesigned library included a makerspace area.

“This generous grant from the Micron Foundation will allow us to complete the student design of this area. We intend on bringing the students back together using the Design Process to ensure that the money is spent in a manner that meets their goals,” said Christopher Larson, assistant principal.

“Kids will come in and work on circuit boards, program their SPHEROS and do coding, but it is more on their own time, a continuation of what they learn in programming class and in robotics,” Cindy Thompson, instructional librarian, said.

“They literally create robots to compete within the VEX Robotics program that is worldwide. They are building robots, mechanical robots, and programming them to move on their own,” Thompson said.
At both schools, good feelings abound.

“I am thrilled to get the grant. I think it is awesome that organizations are supporting what we are doing here at Centennial. I feel like it just values the work that we are doing,” Murphy said.

“We are thrilled that the Micron Foundation was open to hearing what we as a STEM school are doing and then decided to support us in the form of this grant,” Larson stated.