Tag Archives: Makerspace

From empty room to Fab Lab, a makerspace’s journey

When I started at Saint Paul’s School in August of 2015, the school had just completed a substantial makeover of the middle school building (see https://paulhaberstroh.com/2015/10/the-21st-century-classroom/ for details). The plans also included an area for a new, dedicated makerspace. The exciting news was that I had a wonderful empty room to develop a makerspace. The challenge was that I had a wonderful empty room to develop a makerspace.

In my research on how to equip and develop a makerspace, I came across the Fab Lab Model, the educational outreach component of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms. This was the model I aspired to create.

As the first year went on, tools and materials would slowly appear through the generosity of parents and benefactors. Soon we had a great supply of recycled and repurposed electronics and things. We started with one 3D printer and a few power tools. Through the generosity of the PTA we acquired a laser cutter. With the support and shared vision of our head of school we added a CNC machine, a second 3D printer, and some significant electronics capabilities. As the makerspace took shape and evolved, the vision to be recognized by the Fab Lab community became realistic.

My goal for this year was to achieve the Fab Lab designation and global listing.

Makerspace at Saint Paul's School in Clearwater.

The before picture of the makerspace at Saint Paul’s School

As the Fab Foundation describes the concept on www.fabfoundation.org: “A Fab Lab is a technical prototyping platform for innovation and invention, providing stimulus for local entrepreneurship. A Fab Lab is also a platform for learning and innovation: a place to play, to create, to learn, to mentor, to invent. To be a Fab Lab means connecting to a global community of learners, educators, technologists, researchers, makers and innovators- -a knowledge sharing network that spans 30 countries and 24 time zones. Because all Fab Labs share common tools and processes, the program is building a global network, a distributed laboratory for research and invention”.

Becoming a Fab Lab Is more than just having the right fabrication equipment. There is a minimum expectation in fabrication capabilities: a laser cutter for cutting and engraving, a precision CNC milling machine, a 3D Printer, a vinyl cutter for making flexible circuits and crafts, and a fairly sophisticated electronics workbench for prototyping circuits and programming microcontrollers.

Most importantly, Fab Lab is about community. In addition to providing resources for the local community, a Fab Lab will network with the global community sharing projects and ideas.

Clearwater's Fab Lab at Saint Paul's School

The after picture, Clearwater’s Fab Lab at Saint Paul’s School

To be added to the global listing of Fab Labs, there is an application and approval process. We reached out to three “referee” labs, with hope of the approval of two as required to be included. The lab also needed it’s own website reflecting the capabilities. One approval came very quickly, and the second one followed shortly. Needless to say we were elated! We are now listed on the global Fab Lab website: https://www.fablabs.io/labs/saintpaulsfablab

By having a Fab Lab in an independent school, we are very fortunate to have many resources to share with the global and local community. As part of our offerings, we will have classes in prototyping and fabrication, 3D Printing and modeling, robotics, and more. On April 1st, we are hosting an “Engineering Day”, where we are opening the facility to the local community for lessons and demonstrations. We will hold many similar events throughout the year. Our summer camps are open to all students.

We are very pleased to announce the newly created Fab Lab at Saint Paul’s School in Clearwater Florida, and to be part of the global Fab Lab community. For details about our facility, please visit http://www.saintpaulsfablab.org

ROV Underwater Robots

Teaching at a school that is located on a large creek has many advantages. To study Marine Ecosystems for Science, your field trip is right to your own backyard!

A great STEAM project for Marine Science in Middle School is making ROV Underwater Robots. Constructed out of easily available materials and components, students design and build a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to navigate and explore the local ecosystem.

PVC ROV designed and built by Saint Paul's Students

PVC ROV designed and built by Saint Paul’s Students

Utilizing the new Makerspace at Saint Paul’s, students built ROVs of their design completely from kits. We chose to use kits from http://pvcrov.wix.com/pvcrov because of the value and support. The kits provide a better cost value than sourcing the components separately, and the company provides excellent support and guidance.

Projects like these are not only excellent STEAM activities, they also foster 21st Century Learning Skills. Students engaged in, and learned:

  • Design and Engineering
  • Project Management
  • Measuring, Cutting, and Assembling
  • Soldering, Wiring, and Electronics
  • Propulsion
  • Buoyancy and Ballast
  • Watercraft Navigation
PVC ROV Designs

Students came up with their own PVC ROV Designs

The project was very successful keeping students engaged throughout the entire process. All teams successfully constructed and operated a working ROV! One team added a video camera to record their exploratory voyage:

Inexpensive Makerspace Projects

Some of my most favorite projects to do in the Makerspace are also the most inexpensive. These projects are great for developing creativity through repurposing and upcycling. Teaching students to source items that may otherwise end up in the trash is a great service to education and the environment!

These two projects are also great introductions to robotics without the need for expensive kits or components!

Toothbrush Battle Bots:

Materials needed:

  • Toothbrush new or used (free or cheap)
  • 3 Volt Cellphone micro vibration motor (Amazon.com approx.$1-2)
  • 3 Volt coin cell battery CR2032 (Amazon approx. 50 cents each)
  • Double sided tape

Cut the head off of the toothbrush. The amount of the handle left will affect movement, so have fun experimenting! There is a good clue in the video!


  1. Use double sided tape to attach the micro vibration motor to the tooth brush.
  2. Use another piece of double sided tape to attach battery to motor.
  3. Connect one of the motor wires to the bottom of the battery being careful to make sure it has a good connection.
  4. Tape the other wire to the top of the battery to complete the connection.
  5. Experiment with different toothbrush shapes and motor positioning.
Toothbrush Battle Bot Components

Toothbrush Battle Bot Components

Toothbrush Battle Bots

Toothbrush Battle Bot


Yogurt Cup Robots


  • Empty yogurt cup
  • 3 pencils or dowels. You may also use markers to make an artist bot.
  • 3V DC  Toy Motor (Amazon.com $2-3)
  • Dual AA Battery Holder (Amazon.com $1-2)
  • 2 AA Batteries
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Hot Glue Sticks


  1. Attach the 3 pencils or dowels to the inside of the yogurt cup evenly spaced (or not!) to make a tripod.
  2. Hot glue the battery holder to one side of the yogurt cup.
  3. Hot glue the motor to the other side of the cup with the motor shaft over the edge of the cup.
  4. Place a 1″ piece of hot glue stick offset on the motor shaft.
  5. Connect the wires to the terminals on the motor.
yogurt cup robot

Yogurt Cup Robot Components

Yogurt cup robot

Yogurt cup robot

Developing a Makerspace

Makerspace St. Paul's School

Makerspace at Saint Paul’s School Clearwater

Developing a Makerspace provides a place for the resources and guidance for students to create. Having a designated space to make things allows students to explore and transform ideas into models and prototypes. A Makerspace fosters the 4C’s of the 21st Century Learning Skills.

Makerspace St. Pauls School

Makerspace at Saint Paul’s School Clearwater

Since resources vary, and are often scarce, a Makerspace could be in a dedicated space or it could be part of a shared space. While having a 3D Printer and Power Tools is nice, I have seen amazing creations made from things like empty yogurt cups, pencils, wire, magnets, and potato chips.

Makerspace St. Pauls School

Makerspace at Saint Paul’s School Clearwater

Once you designate a space, equipping it can be easy and economical. Reach out to Teachers and Parents, I am sure everyone has some tools or materials they could donate. Old computers and electronics make wonderful projects. Cardboard and packing materials can be transformed into engineering masterpieces. Parents tend to be more generous for hands on activities, and may have resources to share. Ask the local Home Improvement store for scraps of wood and other materials that may get tossed out.

The Makerspace is a place for all classes to share and is not just about STEM. Rather than just read about a Roman Aqueduct, a student will have a better appreciation of the concept by actually building a model of one.

I am very fortunate that at Saint Paul’s School in Clearwater, we have a dedicated space that was created as part of an overall renovation project. While we do have a 3D Printer, much of the other tools and materials has been provided by the generosity of parents and staff.

Following is a list of resources that you may find helpful in developing a Makerspace at your school and joining the Maker Movement! Please contact me if you need any help or advice on developing a Makerspace.

C-TEC Conference PowerPointMakerspace Development

TEDEd Video: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/a-call-to-invention-diy-speaker-edition-william-gurstelle

Guides and Equipment Lists:

Makerspace Playbook


Makerspace Equipment List


62 Projects to Make with a Dead Computer ISBN 978-0761152439

Make: Electronics: Learning Through Discovery ISBN 978-1680450262

Making Makers: Kids, Tools, and the Future of Innovation ISBN 978-1457183744

Make: Wearable Electronics ISBN 978-1449336516

The Basic Soldering Guide Handbook ISBN 978-1500531140

STEM to STEAM ISBN 978-1452258331

Web Sites:




Materials Source: