November and December have been a particularly busy time in the High School Innovation Lab. Home to a variety of fabrication equipment, students and faculty alike have been taking advantage of a series of workshops centered around making thoughtful holiday gifts. In these workshops, members of the GDS community have had the opportunity to create customized items for friends and loved ones, while also learning about just a few of the capabilities the lab equipment can provide. Throughout the process, people have been discovering something else: the deep satisfaction from making something yourself.
Making things by hand is not a new concept, but the modern Maker Movement has sought to capitalize on the recent innovations in digital fabrication machinery. With devices like 3D printers and laser cutters becoming more readily available, and at prices that make them continually more affordable, access to these devices has increased for many. In the early 2000s, “makerspaces”—shared community spaces where anyone could have access to these tools—began to pop up around the country. This network of like-minded DIY’ers have been eager to share what and how they create, most notably at Maker Faires, the equivalent to a modern day show-and-tell for people of all ages, taking place all over the world.
The benefits of making extend well beyond a finished product. Not only are makers exposed to the technical skills needed to complete a project, they are also introduced to “design thinking” concepts, including thinking about how a finished product will work for a “user” other than oneself and about how to better improve on an initial design through rapid prototyping and iterative redesigns. Rapid prototyping, a hallmark of the design process, is especially easy with modern fabrication equipment; throughout the process, burgeoning makers learn to think about not only what they can make, but how they can continually improve their designs.
While a handful of students have previously used the equipment in the Innovation Lab, we’ve made a big push this year to showcase just what can be done to the community as a whole. With every workshop this school year, there has been one consistent comment: “This was fun.” Our hope is that through these workshops, students and faculty will come to the lab more frequently to use the available technology for projects inside and outside of class and experience the joy of making. If participation this holiday season is any indication, the Maker Movement has arrived at GDS.