Shopping List for a Maker Space
It’s always fun to spend fake money. But if you’re going to spend money you don’t have, you might as well spend it well. Right?
Last week’s inventory for the fictional maker space at the fictional Dominican High School included items from the worlds of robotics, 3D printing, movie making, music making, and many more. The inspiration for many of those items came from searching through actual maker spaces in my PLN and from the up-and-coming maker space at the school where I work. And because our assigned budget was a moderate $3000, we really wanted to make it stretch. This required a thorough and comprehensive investigation of each item and any viable alternatives. And as any modern American consumer knows, it’s all about balancing the reviews with the price.
This week, my group created a Prezi of our investigation which we will present to our class next week. Before I take you through the process of investigating each item and choosing which items to present, let me first say a few words on Prezi. I’ve tried. And I’ve tried. But despite my efforts, I cannot get on board with Prezi. I do not like it as a program for creating visually pleasing yet functional presentations. I find that the only benefit of Prezi over MS PowerPoint is that Prezi offers the ability to organize one’s information into a meaningful geographic landscape. The ability to create frames that stem from other frames allows one to organize information in a way that may communicate something visual to the audience. Consider if one wanted to present a family lineage in alinear fashion without the image of a tree. Prezi allows for this. However, my gripe with it is: how often is that actually necessary? I find that section headers and title cards in MS PowerPoint are sufficient for organizing a landscape of informaton. Proponents of Prezi might argue that it is mroe visually pleasing, and perhaps that is true for some. Yet, is it that visually pleasing? I would liken Prezi to Smartboards — flashy and cool at first, but eventually, the poor functionality of each renders the flashy factor obsolete.
Now, onto the heart of the matter — the investigation. As a group, we chose 4 items from last week’s inventory to evaluate and present to the class. We each chose 1 item and we each contributed to the Dremel 3D printer. I chose to contribute the pros to the Dremel, and I began my investigation at the Dremel product page for the particular model we listed on our inventory. I was impressed by the videos on the product page’s website that offered general instructions, ideas for application, and troubleshooting techniques. Next, it was on to Amazon.com to read reviews of the Dremel as well as some competing 3D printers. I found two 3D printers that were comparable to the Dremel — Solidoodle ($600) and Flashforge ($1300). Flashforge had some compelling negative reviews on Amazon.com, and considering the price difference — the Dremel Idea Builder prices at $1000 — that eliminated the Flashforge from my considerations. Also, the Solidoodle had several reviews criticizing its customer service. And considering 3D printers are such highly technical devices, I thought good customer service is a major plus. In addition, I found that the “proprietary” (non-generic; sold by the company) filament, which is the material with which 3D printers print, was cheaper than its competitors. Overall, it seems like a good balance of quality and low price.
Next, I undertook the Lego Movie Making items. I first got this idea from an Apple conference for librarians and media specialists I attended last year; and it sounded like an excellent project for a library maker space, because no single classroom can invest in all of these materials. Instead, a library can, and it can be made accessible by classes and clubs. The item list for this project included three lego sets (e.g. figurines, blocks, platforms), an iPad for filming, and the Lego Movie Maker app. The item that shines the most here — the app itself — is free! I’ve played with this app and it is incredibly user-friendly, intelligible, and visually pleasing. It is a nearly perfect app, and it makes stop-motion movie making so easy. I found that the sets are perfect for customization and creative building, yet, specialty Lego pieces, such as curved pieces and all those fun pieces that could give a Lego movie personality, are difficult to buy in wholesale. Perhaps, our makerspace could organize a donation drive of students’ and staff’s old Legos.
And, I’m happy to announce that I have a meeting next week with our advancement office to go over some of the maker space ideas from this project. Maybe I’ll be seeing this inventory list come to life very soon.