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    Managing Makerspaces on Campus

    Managing Makerspaces on Campus

    The White House reported in June 2014 that 150 colleges and universities signed commitments to promote “making” on their campuses through the creation of “makerspaces.” High schools have also joined the maker movement with makerspaces popping up in schools and libraries across the country.

    What Is a Makerspace?

    Also called an innovation or fabrication lab or “hackerspace,” makerspaces are dedicated workshops set up to promote learning, knowledge sharing, and invention through hands-on experience. They allow for cross-disciplinary exploration and creativity, often joining elements of art, engineering, and industrial fabrication. The spaces may be used by students, faculty, staff, and, in some instances, the community. Available equipment can range from digital cameras, publishing software, and 3-D printers to drills, table saws, and laser cutters. These spaces may be housed separately, as part of a larger workshop, or in a library.

    Managing Makerspaces

    Having a makerspace on campus does come with risk. As your institution operates or prepares to open its own makerspace, consider:

    • Who will use the makerspace? Determine whether your space is open to anyone on campus and in the community. Track users and visitors through a sign-in sheet or membership card.
    • Who has authority over the makerspace? Specify which department has responsibility for keeping the space orderly, clean, and safe. The physical location of the makerspace, such as an engineering building or a library, may determine who has ownership. For example, Davidson College’s Maker & Innovation Space is run by the Information Technology Services Department.
    • Are general policies on safety, usage etiquette, and intellectual property available to all users of the space? Some makerspaces require users to sign a form indicating they have read and understood the applicable policies.
    • Is there appropriate insurance in place to cover individuals, including visitors, in the event of an accident?
    • Does the makerspace have proper ventilation and sufficient space for anticipated activities, such as soldering and chemical usage?
    • Who provides training for proper tool usage? Who assesses and monitors safe usage? Case Western Reserve University requires users of the metal and wood shops to earn and display a badge confirming they have completed safety training for specific machines.
    • Are safety rules and notices posted centrally and near specific tools? Is appropriate protective gear available for users? Also, many makerspaces post safety precautions and instructions at each tool area to reinforce safe usage and proper maintenance.
    • Are first aid kits readily available? Are their locations and phone numbers for emergency services prominently noted near a centrally located phone?

    Addressing these considerations can help your institution reduce the risk of injury in its makerspace.


    Case Western Reserve University think[box] Playbook
    University of Washington CoMotion MakerSpace Policies

    Santa Clara University Maker Lab Safety Videos

    MakerEd Makerspace Playbook for Schools

    American Library Association Tools for Makerspaces

    By Heather A. Salko, Senior Risk Management Counsel