The name of the place is the purpose of the space at CREATE at Arizona Science Center, a new maker space where students can use equipment ranging from circuits to 3D printers to unleash their creativity and grow their skills in science, technology, engineering and math.
“Kids are always wondering and asking questions here as well as in the main building, but here it gives them the opportunity to come up with really unique questions like, ‘How does a 3D printer work?’ ‘What can I make?’ ‘Can I make a pencil?’ ‘Can I make a camera out of the 3D printer and the laser cutter here?’” said Michele Meyer, marketing manager for Arizona Science Center.
When Kyrene Community Education considered expanding its STEM offerings to include a Saturday program for middle-school students, it reached out to CREATE at Arizona Science Center.
“We have seen huge interest from schools like Kyrene to come in here and use this facility for different purposes, for offerings that they’re doing that may not have this type of space and set up, and we’ve partnered with them,” Meyer said.
CREATE at Arizona Science center is a maker space designed for people of all ages and grew from the rebirth of people creating items themselves, Meyer said. A maker space is a creative, do-it-yourself place that has become popular in recent years where people can gather to create, invent, and learn.
“It’s going around word of mouth that CREATE at Arizona Science Center has these 3D printing classes, laser cutting classes, sewing classes and more,” Meyer said. “If you can think it up, I’m sure you can actually make it here or at least get started on it.”
Students on field trips can come in to take different classes, and older students have the opportunity to do 3D printing, learn laser cutting, do coding, sew, paint, solder and so much more, Meyer said.
It’s rewarding seeing parents and kids working on creating something together, and “we definitely want to see more of that happen here where generations are communicating with each other and learning from each other,” Meyer said.
CREATE at Arizona Science Center trained five teachers in Kyrene Community Education’s before- and after-school program in the skills and techniques they’d need to show students, said Nancy Dudenhoefer, assistant director of marketing and communications for Kyrene School District.
Teachers trained eight hours a day for three Saturdays and worked on projects on their own time as well, said Marissa Dzubak, a Kyrene Community Education instructor.
“The idea was for us to be able to teach and train district employees, so we’ve helped classes on how to keep older kids focused on new- and long-term projects after school,” Dzubak said.
For example, instructors took what they learned from their training to help students make their own pinball machines from scratch and create 3D nametags, Dzubak said.
“Last week, we did the 3D printer and it was really fun. I liked working with the littleBits too, you can do whatever you want with it,” said Merrie Pressman, a seventh-grader.
The training makes teachers “more comfortable doing these project-based, challenge activities, said Steven Weiner, program director at CREATE at Arizona Science Center
“It gives them more confidence in their own ability to run activities like this and use the tools we use here,” Weiner said. “It opens their eyes to this as a mode of learning.”
While one group of students worked on the chain reaction machine, another group worked on laptops in Minecraft, an online game, to take certain actions that made some nearby littleBits, or circuits, light up, make noise or move.
“It’s really cool, because we can do something in Minecraft that will do something in real life,” said Jackson Dazis, a seventh-grader. “I also like working with other people, because it’s really boring doing things by yourself.”
Sohan Gawali, a sixth grader, said “It involves new technology and a game, which makes it really fun.”
“I like Minecraft and learning new stuff that I never knew about in Minecraft,” said Rigel Lind, a sixth-grader.
“We’ve been able to do so much with our kids to get their minds thinking,” Dzubak said. “It’s more hands on. The kids are excited, because it’s not something other kids are doing.”
Gilbert Espinoza, a sixth-grader said he likes learning about new things, getting closer to science and making new friends.
“Some of my friends have never done this before, and I’m glad that I have this opportunity to do this,” Espinoza said.
“I think what’s most rewarding for the kids is that they are taking part in a very genuine learning process where the arbiter of their success is them,” Weiner said. “They can see if they succeed or fail, but don’t need to see someone else grade them.”
Students discuss the processes they used, and they learn how to respond to criticism, Weiner said.
This first Saturday STEM program for older students has been so successful that it will be offered at all Kyrene middle schools next year, Dudenhoefer said.
“My brother’s going to take this class next year,” Lind said.