An international collaboration to understand and develop equitable practice in makerspaces.
The Making Spaces Project seeks to support and share equitable practice within the STEM sector.
The first phase of the Making Spaces project was undertaken between 2020-2022 and involved a collaborative partnership between researchers, practitioners and young people from three UK makerspaces. The project started its second phase in September 2022, expanding partnerships with the addition of international makerspaces in Nepal, Slovenia, USA and Palestine. The project is funded by Llyod's Register Foundation.
Makerspaces are informal multipurpose sites designed for collaborative hands-on learning and creative production, with or without tools. These innovative learning spaces offer the opportunity to share materials, skills, and ideas to address technological, personal, and societal goals. Evidence suggests that these rapidly proliferating spaces can provide ideal settings for growing STEM participation – but to date this potential remains largely unrealised among unsupported communities. Yet, these spaces have the potential to offer valuable opportunities to underserved and underrepresented young people who are typically marginalised from mainstream engineering, science and technology. The Making Spaces Project, led by Professor Louise Archer (UCL IOE), and funded by Lloyd’s Register Foundation, seeks to support equitable youth practice within the sector in order to enable more Makerspaces to fulfil these aims.
Rather than the just the acquisition of more equipment, makerspaces need accessible new understandings and resources to support increased and widened participation that in turn can address societal challenges, empower learners and communities and transform barriers to equitable STEM participation. This project proposes a solution – building on and extending existing evidence to identify effective, inclusive pedagogy and practices for supporting under-resourced communities to engage in making for social change and creating mechanisms to share and spread this knowledge and practice widely.
The project partners with seven international makerspaces in the UK, USA, Nepal, Slovenia and Palestine to extend understanding of what socially just makerspace practice entails and translate this into practical resources for implementation. Working collaboratively, researchers, practitioners and youth from under-represented communities will (i) test out and extend existing findings, (ii) translate insights into co-produced, engaging, practical, accessible resources that can be used across national contexts and (iii) share and embed change within professional practice globally. Together, these outputs will inform and improve international STEM education policy and practice beyond makerspaces.
Embedded in the project are five core aims:
- Build capacity within the international makerspace sector to enable practitioners to develop more inclusive and effective practice that can support increased and diversified STEM participation among under-represented/ under-resourced communities.
- Increase and enhance STEM skills and engagement among young people from unsupported communities in ways that support the social good.
- Improve educational and occupational outcomes of young people from underrepresented/ under resources communities.
- Foster new, youth-led innovation for addressing social and environmental challenges that will benefit local communities and society.
- Produce new knowledge and evidence through co-production between researchers, practitioners and young people.
- Project partners
Our partnerships with makerspaces are key to our research project. In phase 2, we are working with the 7 partners below.
A continuing partner from phase one, Knowle West Media Centre supports people to make positive changes in their lives and communities, using technology to explore new ways of doing things. KWMC’s makerspace youth programme works with those from the local community to build STEM skills through engaging with social action issues.
A continuing phase one partner, MadLab is a not-for-profit, grassroots digital innovation organisation based in Manchester. They focus on digital technologies and working with young people from underserved communities at risk of digital exclusion.
A continuing phase one partner, this makerspace is in a multidisciplinary research club for those interested in the made world: from makers of molecules to makers of buildings, synthetic skin to spacecraft, soup to diamonds, socks to cities. We will be working together to share practitioner expertise.
Spark is an innovative makerspace that provides youth free access to new digital manufacturing technologies. Their programmes give youth and adolescents in Gaza access to training, physical space, and equipment for indigenous product development and innovation.
A storefront maker space working on custom equipment for New Yorkers with disabilities. ADA offers a programme for high school students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, teaching hands-on skills in design and fabrication.
A collaborative digital fabrication lab and centre for innovation, invention, education and humanitarian outreach. They currently provide workshop access to university students in Nepal, and are planning on setting up new youth programmes.
A lab for hacking science, art and society, the young people’s programmes here focus on a hands-on approach, trans-disciplinary work, do-it together methods and a free sharing of knowledge ideas and skills.
- Outputs and resources
- Making Spaces: Phase One - Impact Summary: headline findings from the first phase of the project (2020-2022). The summary has been published ahead of our main phase one output (set to be released June 2022).
- Developing equitable practice with youth in makerspaces: Ideas and case studies from the Making Spaces project - Main report (translated into Arabic, Nepali and Slovenian)
- Developing equitable practice with youth in makerspaces: Ideas and case studies from the Making Spaces project - Executive summary (translated into Arabic, Nepali and Slovenian)
- Supporting equitable practice for makerspace practitioners - Visual summary
For our full list of resources, visit the Making Spaces project website.