LANCASTER — In Fulton & Alsbury Academy of Arts and Engineering’s new makerspace, students can write or draw on a clean round white table without the risk of getting a stink eye from the nearest adult.
They can test their doodling skills on the classroom’s whiteboard with Google’s Quick, Draw game; build a Lego car; create cardboard letter stencils; design and print a 3D object; build something with snap circuits; or any number of activities.
The possibilities are limited only by the student’s imagination. Students can choose what they want to do, but they must follow all safety rules. The makerspace is open to all sixth- through eighth-grade students after they complete an initial basic safety quiz.
“I actually love it; this is my third time here. I did the test on Monday,” seventh-grader Amy Gonzalez said during her lunch break Thursday morning.
Amy and her fellow students painted individual welcome letters stencils that seventh graders Victor Medoza, Rupert Regis, and Carlo Ramirez created with a press.
“We were thinking to do the Knighthawk colors, so it’s black, white and blue,” Amy said.
Amy added she is looking forward to using a 3D printer.
“I really like it because we have all these things, computers,” she said. “We have all this technology and also arts and engineering.”
Sixth-graders Livie Roche, Milan Thompson, and Leilani Coreas drew and wrote with blue, green and red pens with erasable ink on a large round table with the same surface of a white board.
“I like it because we get to learn new things I haven’t learned yet,” Livie said.
“I like it because I can do art here and lots of other things and I usually can’t do that,” Milan said.
Leilani also gave the makerspace her approval.
”I like this room because there’s a lot of fun activities that we can do that require skill and there’s also a lot of art and robotics,” Leilani said.
Students are required to wear badges. Each badge also depicts nine icons featuring basic tools such as a hammer and wrench to a 3D printer, sewing machine, soldering iron and power tools such a circular saw.
The icons are color-coded according to the student’s experience and training. There are four different levels based on the student’s training.
A student with a red badge can only use a tool with the help from a prefect, head boy or girl, or Knighthawk Wizard. A student prefect has a yellow badge. These students can use tools with a partner. Partners must also be a prefect, or a head boy or girl, or a Knighhawk Wizard.
Students who have attained the head boy or girl level get a green badge; this indicates they passed the demo test. A head boy or girl can help train other students. A Knighthawk Wizard student has a blue badge to indicate they passed the advanced test and can use a tool alone.
Seventh-grader Christian Jones is a prefect, the highest level achieved so far by any student.
“I think some of my funnest things would be tools and the snaps, mainly because of the propellers.” Christian said.
Christian reached inside a storage box and pulled out a snap motor, circuit, and propeller as he explained what it does.
Students can visit the makerspace before school and during lunch.
“All the time that I get normally,” Christian said when asked how much time he spends there.
The makerspace wizard is Rafael Martinez-Zepeda, who serves as Fulton & Alsbury’s computer technician.
Martinez-Zepeda created the badge system to ensure students work safely, such as wearing safety glasses, and have the necessary skills to use the different tools available to them.
The makerspace averages about 30 to 35 students each lunch.
“This space allows for them to explore and discover,” Martinez-Zepeda said.
Fulton & Alsbury Principal Andrew Glatfelter said the makerspace is a work in progress that will grow with its students.
“We’re always going to be looking for what interests kids, what motivates them. There’s always going to be something fun and new,” Glatfelter said.
The Lancaster School District funded the makerspace with a $50,000 grant from the Air Force Research Laboratory.
“This is great,” said Kriss Vander Hyde, education outreach manager for the Air Force Research Laboratory. “With any grant we give we want to see kids using it. We want to see kids getting inspired to work with and really become engineers. That’s our big thing, to make sure the grants we give them are being used and inspiring kids to do something.”