River Road set to debut Makerspace project

Project is part of school's STEM effort


Sharon Meads


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Monday, August 21, 2017

River Road Middle School is debuting a collaborative project work area called Makerspace this year as part of its emphasis on the STEM subjects and journey toward being a fully recognized STEM School.

The roughly 1,320-square-foot room will be home to activities that include robotics, math and art.

River Road Principal Adrian Fonville said Makerspace is designed to encourage critical thinking skills and creative skills.

The school is in the second year of applying to be a STEM School. This year the school is working on introducing project-based learning for students. The ultimate goal is to have STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) embedded into all subjects, said Sharon Meads, assistant principal and STEM coordinator at the school

The equipment in the room includes a three-dimensional printer and kits that students can use to build robots. Students will learn the coding process in their robotics work.

The room and its activities are intended to help with the integration of STEM subjects into the overall curriculum at the school.

The activities encourage creativity, collaboration and interdisciplinary learning, and will give students an opportunity to build on their strengths, according to Meads.

Meads said the school is looking for community donations of materials such as wood and other building materials. If you have something you wish to donate you may call the school and ask for Meads.

Students also can obtain their own materials and are encouraged to do so as part of the creativity involved in Makerspace projects.

Meads said she hopes the school eventually will be able to make the space available for other schools in the district to use.

Last year volunteers from the Coast Guard helped with aviation units and hot air balloons as part of the school’s STEM activities.

"They donated countless hours out here working with our kids," Meads said.

The plan is to have community volunteers available to help supervise the space when teachers do not have classes scheduled to be in the room. Eventually the space will be staffed, according to Meads.

A number of grants have made Makerspace possible.

A $5,000 grant from Burroughs Wellcome funded the purchase of LEGO EV3 robot kits.

A $3,000 grant from Lowe's was used to buy tools for the room. A variety of power tools and hand tools are available for students to use.

Additional equipment and programming for the room is being funded through a $20,000 STEM education grant from the Goldenrod Research Corporation.

"Our grant program provides an opportunity to affordably integrate hands-on robotics and fluid power technology into third- through eighth-grade classrooms," the company states on its website.

Meads said teachers will bring classes to Makerspace for group activities but the room also will available for students to work on projects on their own.

"The plan is to have it available all day," Meads said. "It's just to get the kids motivated and interested and understand that learning doesn't have to take place just in a chair.

Makerspace offers students a chance to leave the classroom environment and go to a separate collaborative space to focus on creativity, Meads said.