Alcona could have ‘maker space’ for school, public projects

LINCOLN — A new “maker space” could be installed at Alcona Elementary School for use by students and members of the public, according to elementary Principal Timothy Lee.

He said he is in talks with the Alcona County Michigan State University Extension and Extension educator Tracy D’Augustino and Jodi Mann from Northrop Grumman Corporation in the project, as well as school staff.

“A couple of teachers and myself met to have a maker space at the building,” Lee said. “At that point we needed to agree that we would have a space or a room available, but we did have an agreement in the elementary building for it.”

Lee said there are going to be future meetings to figure out all the details of the space and its future in the elementary building.

Lee said he hopes the space could be similar to one located in Alpena at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center.

That space is used for various programs at the center, including building remotely operated vehicles used on underwater dives. Lee said he hopes to tour that facility to get an idea of what can be done with the space.

He said the Alcona space would not just be used by the school.

“It’s really just to bring in and to provide an opportunities for different community groups to come in and try and explore making whatever they want,” he said. “We’re looking at making stuff with Lego, having electronic pieces in there, if people want to learn to solder they can learn that.

According to Lee, there is no exact focus for the space or what it would be used for.

“It would be anything (the public) would want to make and is pretty much open-ended. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is or what the focus is but it’s a space available for different groups,” Lee said.

He said there would be certain expectations for the groups and a vetting process before they would be allowed to use the space.

Lee said the next step is trying to fund the space. He said the district could provide some funding and there are grants available through different organizations.

According to Lee, the space would be a great way for children in the community to learn how to work with hand tools and other things.

“It would be great to provide those opportunities for kids. They may not have a chance to work with certain hand tools, or the chance to build different things,” he said. “Some are a bigger dream or a goal (for the space) to have CNC machines or 3D printers. It would be cool if we could get some of those devices in the school.”

D’Augustino said the new space will allow the further education of kids in the so-called STEM cirriculum.

“It will allow us to engage a lot more kids with STEM; having it right there at the school makes accessability pretty good for kids,” she said. “Kids can stay after school to have club meetings for 4-H. I’m just really excited about the opportunity that is going to come to the kids in Alcona County, the parents or really anyone in the county.

D’Augustino said the next steps are forming a committee or board for the space, as well as seeking grants through the 4-H Foundation and MSU, among other sources.

Jason Ogden can be reached via email at jogden@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Jason on Twitter @jo_alpenanews.