Makerspaces: Preparing Children to be Productive and Innovative Workers

October 14th, 2016

Topics: Entrepreneurial Tech Future of Work Manufacturing

Have you heard about Makerspaces? It not totally new, but it is new to me.

Makerspaces are fairly open areas for kids (or adults) to conceive of an invention and then start making it right away.    The spaces can be supplied with wood & tools, Legos, or electrical parts & wires, and lots more.  Many start with just cardboard, fabric, duct tape, and glue.   Others have electronic components, 3D printers, software, craft and hardware supplies, and tools.   Often they are set up in school libraries, classrooms, and civic centers.   They can be found from elementary school up through college.

Students choose their own projects – which drives their enthusiasm.    (Middle school students have been known to show up at 7:00 AM before class, just to get some more time working on their own projects.)   The students work in groups to conceive an invention or innovation, and then start making a prototype.   Immediately.   And then they iterate on that.

I love this.   I would have loved to learn this way, because it’s hands-on, self-motivated learning vs. what is starting to be called “sage on the stage.”   All along, the participants practice creativity, design, teamwork, math, engineering, failure and success all while having the most fun.

Along with a few other things, an education system should prepare students to be the productive workers businesses will be seeking in 10 to 20 years.    We need a population of creative, resourceful, workers with “can-do” attitudes.   We need people who are adept at applying design, math and engineering principles to a new problem.   Enter Makerspaces, which not only teach them the skills, but shows them to love the experience.   Design thinking perspective.   Prototype; then iterate on that.

Take a look at the video below and you’ll see some of the variety of experiences and the success of this approach.   It has an inspiring start, with a young student saying, “Think of something that might be useful for other people, and you can make it for real.”


It’s in companies’ long-term interest to have schools and colleges graduate people that are ready for how work is done today and in the future.   Organizations should not sit back and wait and see if this model will indeed help produce tomorrow’s productive and innovative workers.   They should help Makerspaces (and other experiments in education), be successful by participating.

Do you know of any companies that are partnering with school, college, or library Makerspaces to mentor students, help facilitate, or bring in new ideas?

About the Author


Don Castle, Executive Fellow at the Center for Digital Strategies, is a partner in the consulting firm New Madison Ave, where he specializes in advising CEO’s and boards of directors on opportunities and risks presented by Digital Technologies, and in helping chief marketing officers to use data to enhance brand strength and revenue.
Previously, Don held CIO positions at Johnson & Johnson, first for Ethicon, Inc. a manufacturer of surgical devices, then as Group CIO for J&J’s six global medical device companies.  He also was CIO, then President of the Life Science Services at SGS North America, and CIO for Nabisco International.

Don has run one business-to-business startup, and served as advisor to another startup in Healthcare IT. He serves on the board of the nonprofit Inroads NY/NJ.  Don has a bachelor degree from Dartmouth, and an MBA from The Tuck School.

Follow Don on Twitter @dwcastle


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