UW Launches Statewide Satellite Makerspaces Project

UW Launches Statewide Satellite Makerspaces Project

Located on the first floor of the new UW Engineering Education and Research Building, the flagship Innovation Wyrkshop is the largest makerspace on campus and among the largest makerspaces in Wyoming. UW photo

LARAMIE — The University of Wyoming College of Engineering and Applied Science’s Innovation Wyrkshop will expand across the state with five new Innovation Wyrkshop mini-makerspaces — aimed at high school students and young adults with disabilities — thanks to $175,000 from Wyoming Department of Workforce Services Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) Pre-Employment Training Funds.

Locations for the mini-makerspaces are being sought, and the Innovation Wyrkshop is looking for input from interested communities. To submit the opportunity to host a mini-makerspace, visit www.wyrkshop.org/apply.

“We are so thrilled about this partnership, and we can’t wait to see these new spaces in action,” says Tyler Kerr, coordinator for UW’s Innovation Wyrkshop. “The five new mini-makerspaces will be geared primarily to providing unique opportunities for young adults with disabilities, or those with potential disabilities, as well as providing creative space to high school students across Wyoming.”

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Located on the first floor of the new UW Engineering Education and Research Building, the flagship Innovation Wyrkshop is the largest makerspace on campus and among the largest makerspaces in Wyoming, serving approximately 1,000 visitors each month before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new mini-makerspaces will help support the Innovation Wyrkshop’s five-year growth strategy, and make the facilities and curriculum of the “Makerspace Access Pass” (MAP) training program more accessible. The MAP program has more than 50 individualized courses across five facilities and more than 1,500 credentials earned to help students develop marketable skills.

“A student can learn how to use equipment in one makerspace and be certified to operate the same type of equipment in all other MAP spaces,” Kerr says. “In effect, the program unlocks access to an entire network of participating MAP makerspaces — all for free.”

Nicky Harper, the DVR administrator, says the partnership with UW presented an opportunity to provide youth with barriers to employment exciting ways to train for high-paying, in-demand jobs.

“We know that unemployment and underemployment disproportionately affect individuals with disabilities, and we saw a real opportunity via the makerspace program to provide training and work experiences for youth with barriers in high-growth fields,” Harper says. “Partnering with UW and enhancing the already phenomenal makerspace program to include education and training opportunities for persons with disabilities just made sense. We are thrilled to launch this program across Wyoming.”

Harper says the program will allow students to work alongside experienced science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) professionals, while gaining industry credentials online. Students also will participate in career roundtable discussions with STEAM educators and industry professionals, attend workshops and gain work experience.

“The name of the game is lowering barriers to access and increasing tech literacies and marketable skills,” Kerr says. “Each new mini-makerspace will be equipped with 3D printers, sewing machines, laser cutters, laptops, computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D modeling software, introductory electronics bench equipment and a small workbench with enough woodshop tools to make a wide variety of personal projects.”

Each of the new mini-makerspaces will provide opportunities for real-world work experiences by hiring students as makerspace team leaders to help Kerr and local educators coordinate activities and maintain the new spaces.

Stipends will be provided to hire local educators to teach classes. Funds will be available to hire pre-employment transition services students. Students also can volunteer as teen technicians to help host tours, lead workshops and design their own STEAM projects.

“Our goal is to build makerspaces throughout the state that are welcoming, open, free and accessible to the entire Wyoming creative community,” Kerr says. “With DVR’s help, we are looking forward to making that happen in a very meaningful way.”

To learn more about UW’s Innovation Wyrkshop, visit www.wyrkshop.org.