Tips for Organizing Your Makerspace

We get a lot of questions about how we organize and set up our space.Truthfully, everyone will have different needs that inform how they set up and organize their makerspace. Before you jump into purchasing the latest and greatest tools, consider these 8 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Makerspace by Fingal (2018).

Guided by a need to inspire teachers with practical options, our space is set up with affordable and low-cost equipment and materials. We are fortunate to have a dedicated classroom/lab space in the College of Education, where we have work tables in the center of the room (5 tables with 4 chairs each), thematic exploration areas set up around the perimeter, and sufficient cabinet space to store additional equipment and materials. All of our equipment is small and portable, making it easily capable of being stored or placed in a collapsible rolling cart for transport to other sites. Learn more about our classroom makerspace setup below.

2D Explorations Area
This area includes tools that work with 2D materials, including paper and textiles. Additional equipment is stored in a nearby cabinet and is available for use on work tables in the center of the room. Resource books are arranged on a nearby shelf to help promote self-help (see our list here). Here is a look at the 2D explorations area:
2D-explorations-areaSewing machine, Silhouette Cameo machine, and additional equipment

3D Explorations Area
Set up in a similar manner to our 2D area, this area focuses on tools that work with 3D materials, including modeling clay, blocks, and 3D printing. Users use the work tables in the center of the room to create their 3D models using free CAD software (e.g., Tinkercad, Makerbot Print Shop). When they are ready to 3D print, they load their .STL file onto one of the designated laptops that operate the 3D printers (via USB drive or through transferring from cloud-based storage) and print directly to the 3D printer. A nearby cabinet contains additional modeling tools and additional 3D printer filament options (always stored in plastic storage bags to limit warping damage to the filament).  A nearby shelf contains student-created examples and resource books to help promote self-help (see our list here). Here is a look at the 3D explorations area:
Makerbot Replicator Mini 3D Printers

3D printed examples

Electronics Explorations & Computer Programming Area
This area includes a variety of equipment and resources focused on simple electronics and computer programming that are easy to access for beginners. Through our grant funding, we are fortunate to have class sets of electronics kits that allow us to scaffold beginner activities, including LittleBits, SnapCircuits, Makey Makeys, and Picoboards. A nearby cabinet contains additional electrical components organized in plastic boxes, including batteries (AA, AAA, CR2032), conductive materials (steel thread, copper tape, aluminum tape, paper clips, alligator clips), LED lights (diodes with resistor legs), motors (DC motors, pager motors), and additional craft materials. Student-created examples are on display around the area to help inspire new projects. Resource books are arranged on a nearby shelf to help promote self-help (see our list here). Here is a look at the electronics and computer programming explorations area:
Electronics and Computer Programming equipment

Mobile Makerspace Carts
The mobile rolling carts are critical to The MAKE Lab as they enable us to bring our equipment to locations throughout the community and they also enable teachers to borrow equipment for use in their own classrooms. Here is one example of a 2D Digital Fabrication cart that holds a Silhouette Cameo machine, assorted cardstock, fabric, and vinyl:
Mobile makerspace cart for 2D explorations

To learn more about specific details and logistics regarding how we configure our mobile makerspace carts, please view Dr. Smith’s book chapter, “Mobile makerspace carts: a practical model to transcend access and space” located in Mills & Wake’s (2017) Empowering learners with mobile open-access learning initiatives (preview Google Book here).