IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Making Spaces

A project to empower young people from marginalised communities using science, technology and engineering.

Making Spaces project. Image: courtesy of Louise Archer for UCL Institute of Education

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.



From building, to crafting, from tinkering, to playing, meaning is made though making. Makerspaces are informal multipurpose sites designed for collaborative hands-on learning and creative production, with or without tools. Such sites offer the opportunity to share materials, skills, interests, and ideas geared towards technological, personal, and political goals. 

Barriers in the STEM sector

Despite the maker movement's commitment to values of democracy and accessibility - in practice, makerspaces still predominantly reflect the traditional, White, male, middleclass STEM demographic, and experience similar barriers to access and retention as found in the wider engineering and technology sectors. 


Yet, Makerspaces have the potential to build communities, foster empowerment, and shape sustainable and equitable futures. These settings also offer valuable opportunities to help tackle the underrepresentation of marginalised groups in engineering, science and technology. 


Empower young people

The project aims to empower young people from underserved communities to engage with, and add expertise to, the landscape of makerspaces, positively broadening their occupational potential in engineering, as well as informing ways to address widespread concerns of a global skills shortage in STEM in a way that pertains to equity and fairness.

It seeks to support and share equitable practice within the sector in order to enable more Makerspaces to fulfil these aims. 

Encourage pedagogy and community support

Through the sharing of knowledge in the field of social justice and education, the Making Spaces Project seeks to disrupt the material-based approach (e.g. the acquisition of more equipment) commonplace in makerspaces, so as to encourage and enable one of effective pedagogy and community support. 

Core aims

Embedded in the project are four core aims: 

  1. To generate new knowledge and an evidence base for promoting STEM participation to unsupported communities. 
  2. Widen participation in STEM for unsupported communities, thus contributing to addressing a long standing, global STEM participation challenge. 
  3. Improving the educational and occupational outcomes of young people from unsupported communities, which will both help address global STEM skills gaps and advance social justice.
  4. Increasing and enhancing innovation among young people from unsupported communities, thus supporting societal advancement and potentially accelerating the uptake of new technology

Tackling inequity in STEM

This is an ambitious goal, however we believe that by utilising the rich potential of Makerspaces, and focusing on communal building, maker pedagogy, and embodied approaches to learning, we can together build an innovative and powerful tool to break though the barriers that have historically acted as road blocks against young people from marginalised groups choosing to enter STEM.

Bespoke programmes

In collaboration with Knowles West Media Centre (Bristol), MadLab (Manchester), and the Institute of Making (UCL, London) this project will focus on the building, sharing, and revising of expertise, both practical and theoretical. 

We aim to create robust, and bespoke programmes to support young people’s engagement with Makerspaces, so as to provide playful and safe environments for engineering and tech-based skills to be learnt and practised, as well as give strength to young people's agency and life chances through making. 

Outputs and resources


Practitioner Springboards

Re/imagining makerspaces to support equity and social justice

Our Springboards aim to support practitioners in the process of professional reflection and to help makerspaces in building their capacity for more equitable and socially just practice. These may have relevance for the wider STEM education sector as well.

The series are made as useful ‘jumping off points’ for re/imagining practice and aim to start a conversation within the makerspace sector. Each Springboard identifies two key tenets (principles or ideas) for supporting professional reflection and action:

We are currently producing some new resources and plan to have these translated into other languages. Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about our planned translations. Email: ioe.stemparticipationsocialjustice@ucl.ac.uk