A makerspace allows students to innovate, create, and learn through personalized, hands-on experiences. If you already have a makerspace in your school or classroom, then you’re familiar with the positive effects of learning through real-world applications. Along with building critical skills, makerspace activities can help students explore STEM/STEAM careers. Keep reading for ideas on how to help students make those connections.
Connecting makerspace activities to future jobs
The future of STEM/STEAM-related fields is a bright one for young people considering this career path. Not only are the annual salaries of these jobs nearly double than those of non-STEM careers, but it’s also one of the most stable, and fastest growing career categories — and it’s only getting better. iDTech.com reports that by 2029 STEM-related jobs will increase by an additional 9%.
Makerspace activities can help students begin exploring exciting career opportunities by allowing them to sample the day-to-day requirements of STEM/STEAM jobs. Engaging in these projects also helps them build critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as understand and accept failure. Afterall, failure is a huge part of makerspace learning, and it takes student growth to the next level.
Below, you’ll learn more about four rapidly growing STEM/STEAM occupation areas, as well as activities and projects that can be added to your makerspace to help students explore these opportunities.
1. Digital media production
People have shifted to consuming more content online, and digital media production has become one of the fastest growing STEM/STEAM industries with projected job growth opportunities of nearly 30% by 2030. With a wide array of occupation possibilities, digital media careers offer creative opportunities, but they also require strong strategic planning skills, the ability to adhere to strict deadlines, as well as continuous expectations of learning new technologies and processes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 2021 salaries for these occupations ranging between $60,000 to $80,000-plus per year. Current positions in this field include the following:
- Camera operators and videographers – Shoot raw video footage usually on location or in a studio
- Film and video editors – Manipulate film and video footage in a studio
- Producers and directors – Make business and creative decisions about film, television, stage, and other productions
- Special effects artists and animators – Create images that appear to move and visual effects for various forms of media and entertainment
- Broadcast, sound, and video technicians – Manipulate sound and video footage
Digital media makerspace activities
Adding a media production kit as a makerspace activity is a great way to build students’ multimedia and video production skills. The Green Screen Streaming Production Kit is an ideal, cost-effective approach for a makerspace because it includes everything students need to explore digital media production with a green screen, USB digital web camera, editing software, and more so they can create dynamic projects.
If you’re looking for a digital media lesson that’s popular with students and teachers, the Lip-sync claymation activity adds an artistic element to learning, while giving students a chance to learn and demonstrate stop-motion animation. To begin, students will create moveable claymation characters from nonhardening clay or plasticine and then film the characters lip-syncing to dialogue. You can also purchase a convenient classroom kit for this activity that includes all the art materials needed to create characters.
2. Forensic science
Combining strong science skills with an eye for detail, forensic science is another exciting and fast-growing STEM/STEAM career area. Sometimes referred to as criminalists, forensic scientists analyze evidence to help solve crimes and identify criminals. In 2021, the annual median salary for a forensic science technician was $61,930 per year, and by 2030 the job growth opportunities in this area are expected to increase by 16%. Forensic science careers include jobs in the following areas:
- Forensic science technicians – Collect and evaluate trace evidence from a crime scene
- Crime scene investigators – Document the evidence at a crime scene
- Computer forensic technicians – Search deleted hard drives for evidence of a crime
- Forensic psychologist – Evaluate the psychological state of accused individuals on trial
Forensic science makerspace activities
To bring forensic science makerspace activities to your students, try adding projects that allow them to investigate simulated crimes using realistic scientific experiments. For example, the Crime Scene Investigation Lab helps students solve the mystery of missing biology classroom frogs by using forensic lab techniques like the analysis of fingerprints, hair samples, and chemicals.
In addition, the Strawberry DNA Extraction Kit teaches students about the importance of DNA, as well as how to retrieve and identify DNA by extracting it from a strawberry. This kit also includes an easy-to-follow lesson plan for students who prefer to work on their own.
As another option for students working individually, The Innovating Science® Forensic Chemistry of Blood Typing Individual Student Kit is great makerspace project because it teaches students about blood typing as they attempt to solve a crime using simulated blood from two potential suspects.
3. Engineering and architecture
Careers in engineering and architecture are a staple in STEM/STEAM-related fields. These vocations include a wide array of jobs including the following:
- Aerospace engineers – Design aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and more
- Civil engineers – Design, build, and supervise infrastructure projects and systems
- Computer engineers – Research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components
- Chemical engineers – Apply principles of chemistry, biology, physics, and math to solve problems involving the use of fuel, drugs, food, and other products
- Architect – Plan and design houses, factories, office buildings, and other structures
- Construction managers – Plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from start to finish
The salary ranges for careers in engineering and architecture can range from $45,000 to $140,000 per year, with projected job growth opportunities of 6% by 2030. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that most of the job growth in this field will take place in engineering occupations since these services will be in high demand for infrastructure rebuilding, renewable energy, and oil and gas extraction.
Engineering and architecture makerspace activities
To introduce students to basic building concepts, try the Simple Building Materials Kit to help them design a simple invention, such as the one included in the “Design and engineering with a purpose,” lesson plan. They can also create a prototype of an invention that makes a chore or task easier, as shown in the “Design & engineering: Make chores easier” activity.
Another way to add an engineering and architecture element to makerspace activities is to purchase a 3D printer. 3D printers are a high-tech way for students to design and create three-dimensional models of anything — 3D characters, a plastic whistle, plastic wheels, or components of a robot to assemble using simple circuitry, just to name a few.
Ideal for a makerspace, the Flash Forge Creator Max Dual Extruder 3D Printer offers high-quality technology, good precision, and a positive learning experience for students. The smaller FlashForge Adventurer 3 3D Printer also offers ultra-high resolution and high-quality prints in a less-expensive, lightweight, and more compact design.
4. Circuitry and robotics
A career in robotics is also a rewarding and exciting job path for students interested in engineering. For these jobs, individuals must have knowledge of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, as well as computer science principles in order to develop machines that perform dull or complex tasks that can be too dangerous for humans. The robotics field has created career opportunities across multiple industries for professionals who can create or work with preprogrammed instruction for the following:
- Drone deliveries
- Mechanical welding arms
- Self-driving cars
- Autonomous machines
- Artificial intelligence-based sorting mechanisms
Like engineering and building, the salary ranges for careers in engineering and robotics can range greatly between $45,000 to $140,000 per year, but with slightly higher projected job growth opportunities of 7% by 2030. The multiple career path options in robotics and circuitry include the following:
- Electromechanical robotics technician – Operate, test, and maintain electromechanical or robotic equipment
- Mechanical engineer – Design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices
- Computer software engineer – Design computer applications or programs
- Computer hardware engineer – Research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components
- Sales engineer – Sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses
- Computer scientist – Design innovative uses for new and existing computing technology
Circuitry and robotics makerspace activities
Adding circuitry kits to your makerspace can help students gain an understanding of the basic principles of electricity. First, the Individual Student Small Circuitry Kit is a low-cost option that offers more than a week’s worth of projects and lessons, and it allows students to create simple paper circuits with easy-to-use conductive Maker Tape. For constructing smaller, simple robots, the Bristlebot STEM Project Kit is another popular makerspace activity that gives students the opportunity to build small robots from a toothbrush that scurry along a flat surface.
And, as a highly popular makerspace activity, the Solar Bottle Boat Class Kit gives students the ability to learn about circuitry, robotics, and solar energy while building solar-powered boats from plastic bottles. With enough materials for six groups of students, you can also host solar boat challenges as a way for students to show off their creations and demonstrate their skills.
Don’t forget, your makerspace should be fun, too
Though exploring future STEM/STEAM career opportunities can be a valuable part of makerspace learning, don’t forget to encourage your students to have fun with their creations. If you’re new to the maker concept, remember, makerspace activities are all about exploration, and it’s perfectly okay to start small. The Nasco Beginner Makerspace Kit can be ideal for getting started because it includes a wide array of materials, including drawing paper, plastic cups, modeling clay, glue, and so much more.
If you’re looking for a more mobile approach, try a TeacherGeek Maker Space Activity Cart. These carts roll easily from classroom to classroom while encompassing over 40 STEM/STEAM projects.
No matter where you are with your makerspace experience, your students are already gaining valuable 21st century skills simply by experimenting with what they have at their fingertips. Whether they’re working together as a team or exploring creative concepts on their own, your makerspace is helping them flourish, and that is what will help them succeed on any future job path they choose.