Stewart MakerFair 2015

In April, we held our second annual Stewart MakerFair during our final parent conference night of the year.  Last year’s Mini Makerfaire was focused more on introducing our parents and community to what we had started with our Makerspace program.  This year, our program was already well-established, so we created a fun event focused on STEAM exploration in a variety of no, low and high tech stations.


Interactive Maker Stations - Stewart Makerfair 2015 - RenovatedLearning

Our interactive Maker Stations with littleBits, Cubelets, MaKeyMaKey, Sphero

 Maker Stations
We set up stations throughout our media center where students, parents and community members could try their hands at a variety of maker activities.  We wanted to have a nice mix of both interactive stations and make-and-take activities where our guests could create something to take home with them.  I recruited students from my after-school STEAM club and Media Advisory Board to help run all the stations.


For our interactive activities we had: a MaKeyMaKey celery piano, a littleBits table with task cards to guide our guests, a Cubelets table and Sphero battles and races (check out the video!).


Make and take stations - button maker, perler beads, loom weaving

Make and take stations – button maker, perler beads, loom weaving

For our make-and-takes, we had: Perler bead art, potholder loom weaving and our awesome, old-school button maker.


Special guests at our MakerFair – Tampa Hackerspace and Chuck Stephens


Special Guests
We  invited several members of our local maker community to visit and share some of what they’re working on.  Tampa Hackerspace brought one of their 3D printers and a bunch of cool 3D printed goodies.  They shared with our guests throughout the night about the resources they offer and explained how 3D printing works.  We don’t actually have our own 3D printer in our makerspace (yet), so this was a great way to let our community learn about this important aspect of the Maker Movement.  We also had Chuck Stephens, who brought his amazing recycled musical instruments.  Our students and guests had a lot of fun trying out the instruments, and I heard the Super Mario Bros theme song on the Arduino-programmed synthesizer more than once.


STEM Demonstrations: K'nex launcher and roller coaster

STEM Demonstrations: K’nex launcher and roller coaster

Throughout the night, we held several demonstrations of maker activities.  I showed our guests how they can easily make their own DIY slime at home out of glue, water and borax and gave our recipe cards for them to take home.  This one was a popular demonstration last year, and guests really liked it.  Check out the video to see it.


Our slime recipe cards

Our slime recipe cards

My students also completed their K’nex roller coaster (made from instructions, but that doesn’t make it less awesome) so we had it running throughout the night.  Guests would constantly stop to watch it and snap pictures and videos with their phones.
 A couple of my students in the after school group have been working tirelessly on what they call “The Shatterer”, a K’nex rail cannon that uses rubber bands to launch K’nex arrows.  After an unfortunate incident involving a cracked television screen, we decided to hold this one outside :)  They demonstrated several launches, and answered questions about how they designed it.
All in all, it was a fun, successful evening.  Everyone enjoyed getting to try their hands at the fun activities, and I was so proud of my students for taking the lead and helping explain all the awesome things we’ve been doing in our Makerspace program.  I can’t wait to see what our Makerfair looks like next year :)

Sharing Your Awesome: Why we need to move past the discomfort

Sharing Your Awesome- Why we need to move past the discomfort -

I was raised not to brag about my accomplishments.  Do good deeds in secret.  Don’t broadcast your good grades to the world.  Take leadership positions, but always be humble about it.  Never put yourself on a pedestal.

As a professional adult, I’ve struggled with reconciling my discomfort with self-promotion and the need to advocate for the value of what I do.  I’ve been warned at many conferences that school librarians are at the risk of “humbling ourselves out of a job” because we never want to seem like we’re bragging.

Since I began blogging about being a school librarian and starting a Makerspace, I’ve found great joy in sharing about the successes of my students, offering advice to educators looking to start Makerspaces and revealing my failures as well.  I’ve discovered that I love presenting at conferences, sharing the things I’ve learned, and helping others.  I constantly encourage other educators to share out their experiences, because we all have so much awesome to give one another.

But when it comes to sharing personal accomplishments and successes, I still feel a sense of discomfort.  I worry that it will make me seem like I’m trying to promote myself, or like I’m saying that I’m somehow better than other teacher librarians.  When I first found out that my friend Elissa Malespina had nominated me for a Bammy Award, I was surprised and honored.  But I wasn’t sure how to share about it.  There’s so many amazing librarians nominated, including Sherry Gick, Laura Fleming, and Vandy Pacetti-Tune.  I’ve learned so much from each of these women.

Then my friend Tammy Neil wrote a post about her own struggles with being nominated for a Bammy, and I realized that I wasn’t alone.  And that by not sharing about my own nomination, I’m also holding back a part of my story and how so many others have helped to shape it.  I encourage my friends and colleagues to share their awesome with others, yet I want to hide part of mine in the dark.

What I’ve come to realize is that sharing your awesome is not about bragging.  It is not about standing up and telling everyone to look at you and how amazing you are.  It’s about uplifting others, encouraging others.  Sharing your successes so we can celebrate together like the edu-family that we are, and sharing your frustrations so we can console one another.  As educators, we accomplish amazing things.  We help our students to learn to think critically and independently.  We find that “just right” book for a child that insists he hates reading.  Watch watch the joy on a student’s face when she learns how to light up an LED for the first time.  We are doing awesome, amazing, and inspiring things, and we need to stop hiding them in the dark.

I make a difference in the lives of my students.  And I’m proud of that.  The Bammy Awards are one way for us to share the awesomeness of educators with the world.  I’d be honored if you voted for me, but I’m also just ecstatic for you to vote for anyone who’s nominated and share about the amazing things that they’re doing.

Now, go out and share your awesome :)

Gulf Coast Maker Con 2015

Gulf Coast MakerCon 2015 |

Last year, I attended Gulf Coast MakerCon just as our makerspace was gaining momentum.  That was where I first connected with The Hive (then called Community Innovation Center), FreeFab 3D, and Tampa Hackerspace.  This year, I brought my students along and helped to organize the Young Makers section of the event.  Four parents and three students joined me to share about what we’ve been doing at the Stewart Makerspace.  And we got to have some fun too :)

Our booth at Gulf Coast Makercon |

Gulf Coast MakerCon is a fantastic annual event in the Tampa Bay area run by Eureka Factory.   It features a variety of booths including local makers, makerspaces, robotics clubs, electric car racing, robot battles, a tech take-apart area (deconstruction zone) and more.

Making buttons at our booth

Making buttons at our booth

I wanted our booth to focus mostly on interactive activities that visitors both young and old alike could enjoy.  We brought a bin of LEGOs and a large baseplate and saw some neat creations throughout the day.  We brought an old-school button maker and invited visitors to decorate their own button (this one was super-popular, and we ran out of supplies half-way through the day).  We also had our Cubelets out, which were a hit with our visitors.

Little LEGO makers at our booth

Little LEGO makers at our booth

It was a lot of fun to see all the little makers at our booth.  I’ve pretty much always worked with middle schoolers, and it was a lot of fun to see how our activities worked for the younger set.  It was also a lot of fun to see how great my students were with the little ones – they did a fantastic job explaining things to them and helping them use the button maker :)

Cubelets makers at our booth |

For me, this event was a great networking opportunity too.  I got to meet a TON of local makerspaces I wasn’t aware or hadn’t had a chance to connect with yet, including many public library spaces, schools and colleges.  There was a short makerspace unconference where we all got a chance to meet one another and learn about each other’s spaces.  I’m so excited to see how the Maker Movement is growing in my area, and I’m so happy to be a part of it.


Gulf Coast MakerCon PromoHere’s a great article from Gulf Coast Makers featuring our makerspace.

*Have you ever participated in a local Makerfair style event?  What was your experience like?*


Hillsborough Women in Tech

Hillsborough Women in Tech

Last month, I had the honor of giving a Pecha Kucha talk at the Hillsborough Women in Tech event.  A Pecha Kucha is an ignite style talk, with twenty slides that automatically advance every twenty seconds.  This was my first time giving this style of talk and it’s a lot more work than the forty-five minute conference presentations I’m used to.  You have to be really concise about what you share – there isn’t time to go into a lot of details.  I chose to give a quick overview of the Maker Movement, briefly share how our Makerspace came about, and then explain what types of learning makerspaces support (future post coming from that section).

Awesome artwork on display at the event featuring each of the talks

Awesome artwork on display at the event featuring each of the talks

The event featured a lot of excellent speakers and programs, including a young girl named Priya who shared about how learning to code has changed her life.  There were booths from the local tech community, including organizations that teach adults how to code, Hillsborough High School’s robotics team, and an organization that supports local startups.  It was an excellent opportunity to connect with the local maker/STEM community here in Tampa.

eureka tweet large

I think connecting with the greater Maker/STEM community is vital for anyone trying to promote the Maker Movement in their school.  We all have the same goals at heart, and there’s so much we can learn from one another.  My connections with the HIVE, Tampa Hackerspace and Eureka Factory have all been wonderful – I feel that we’ve all been able to learn and grow together.  As maker-minded educators, we need to be connecting with public libraries, local makerspaces, non-profit organizations that support STEM, and tech professionals who share our vision.

hackerspace tweet large

during pecha kucha

Here’s a YouTube video about the event:

And here’s some press coverage from the Tampa Bay Times.

My Pecha Kucha slides:

*Have you ever given a Pecha Kucha style talk before?  What was your experience?*

Defining Makerspaces: Part 2


(Wordcloud above created from the Twitter posts below)

Last week, someone criticized my makerspace as not being a “real” Makerspace because it does’t have power tools and suggested that I research what “real makerspaces” are.  Part one of my response to this criticism was my post last week where I looked for definitions from a variety of research and writing on makerspaces.  Today, I’m looking at what the Twitterverse had to say.

Here’s my original tweet out:

And here’s what Twitter had to say:

I later asked for people to share pictures of their #realmakerspaces.  Here’s some of the amazing tweets I received:

I am so grateful for the amazing, supportive community of my Twitter PLN.  I think this post shows that makerspaces can come in all shapes and sizes.  The important part isn’t the tools or the space itself – it’s about what’s happening in the space, what the students are learning and experiencing.  Thank you all for being so awesome :)

STEM Collaborations: Partnering with Your Science Teachers


Being at a STEM magnet school, I’ve always strived to bring STEM into our library.  In my recent article for the ISTE Librarians Network newsletter, The Scanner, I go into detail about how I’ve collaborated with our science teachers and created a STEM learning environment in our library.  Check out the article here.

Defining Makerspaces: Part 1

Defining Makerspaces

Recently, I had the unfortunate experience of dealing with criticism.  I was told (not to my face) by a visitor to our school that our library makerspace is not a “real makerspace”.  This same person stated that our woodshop is a “real makerspace” because it has power tools.  She even suggested that I “do some research” on what makerspaces actually are.

Feeling personally insulted aside, what bothers me most about this statement is the concept that some makerspaces are more valid than others and that a makerspace is solely defined by the tools it contains.  I do agree that our woodshop is a makerspace, even though we don’t call it that. Our woodshop is awesome, and I’m so glad that we have a space where students can learn how to use saws, drills and other tools to build awesome projects as part of their curriculum.  Yes, that is a makerspace.

But is my space any less of a makerspace simply because it doesn’t have power tools?  Because it doesn’t have a 3D printer?  Because my students build with LEGOs, K’nex and cardboard?

All of this got me thinking about how we define “makerspace”.  So I did what librarians do best: I researched.  I gathered together my books on makerspaces, I searched our databases for articles, and I crowdsourced the amazing hive mind of Twitter.  And I’ve found so much information that I’m dividing it into two posts.  This one will focus on the research.

For the record, here’s my own definition of a school Makerspace:

A makerspace is a place where students can gather to create, invent, tinker, explore and discover using a variety of tools and materials.

A makerspace can be anything from a repurposed bookcart filled with arts and crafts supplies to a table in a corner set out with LEGOs to a full blown fab lab with 3D printers, laser cutters, and handtools.  No two school makerspaces are exactly alike, nor should they be.  Makerspaces are as unique as the school cultures they represent.   There is no such thing as one form of making being more valid or better than the other.  Makers are artists, crafters, knitters, seamstresses, builders, programmers, engineers, hackers, painters, woodworkers, tinkerers, inventors, bakers , graphic designers and more.

Here’s where my research led me:


I like this definition from Samatha Roslund’s book Makerspaces.  I see three important elements to this definition: Place… people… make things.  While different possible foci are mentioned, this definition does not limit a Makerspace to a particular set of tools.  It’s about a place, about a community.  Another similar quote comes from the Educause Learning Initiative article, 7 things about Makerspaces:

“A makerspace is a physical location where people gather to share resources and knowledge, work on projects, network, and build.”


Makerspaces are not about the tools; they’re about enabling making.

And here’s even more awesome quotes about Makerspaces:

“… [A] space where kids have the opportunity to make – a place where some tools, materials, and enough expertise can get them started.  These places, called makerspaces, share some aspects of the shop class, home economics class, the art studio and science labs.  In effect, a makerspace is a physical mash-up of different places that allows makers and projects to integrate these different kinds of skills.” Dale Dougherty, The Maker Mindset, in Design, Make, Play

“Even if you don’t have access to expensive… hardware, every classroom can become a makerspace where kids and teachers learn together through direct experience with an assortment of high and low tech materials.” ~ Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez in Invent to Learn

“What do you do in a makerspace? The simple answer is you make things.  Things that you are curious about.  Things that spring from your imagination.  Things that inspire you and things that you admire.  The informal, playful atmosphere allows learning to unfold, rather than conform to a rigid agenda.  Making, rather than consuming is the focus.  It is craft, engineering, technology and wonder-driven.” Thinkers and Tinkerers

“The most important quality of a makerspace is that it encourages creativity. This can be done with a space full of hand tools, materials, and finished projects. The culture in a space should support the idea that anything is possible.” 3 Key Qualities for a School Makerspace

“Makerspaces provide hands-on, creative ways to encourage students to design, experiment, build and invent as they deeply engage in science, engineering and tinkering.” Jennifer Cooper, Designing a School Makerspace (Edutopia)

“Makerspaces are collaborative learning environments where people come together to share materials and learn new skills… makerspaces are not necessarily born out of a specific set of materials or spaces, but rather a mindset of community partnership, collaboration, and creation.” Library as incubator project


In Part 2, I’ll go into the amazing, inspiring responses I received on Twitter asking “How do you define a makerspace?” Feel free to tweet me your definition @DianaLRendina – I’m loving hearing everyone’s perspective.  Also, please tweet me pictures of your makerspaces, be they classroom, school, library, community, cart, etc, and include the hashtag #realmakerspace.  I want to crowdsource a variety of views on what makerspaces look like.

Book Review: Worlds of Making by Laura Fleming

Worlds of Making

I was beyond excited when I heard that Laura Fleming was writing a book on makerspaces.  And I was even more excited (and honored) when she asked me to write a section on the beginnings of our makerspace at Stewart.  So I made sure to order several copies as soon as it became available on Amazon.  Laura was a huge inspiration for me as I started my library Makerspace and her book, Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School, is definitely now on my short-list of must-read MakerEd books.

excerpt from Laura's book

Laura defines makerspaces as “a place where learners have the opportunity to explore their own interests, to tinker, create, invent, and build using the widest variety of tools and materials”.  She provides background and context for the Maker Movement from German hackerspaces in the 1990s to John Dewey’s theories of education.  She ties in the idea of “Participatory Culture”, a term coined by Henry Jenkins which focuses on creating “low barriers to expression and engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others, and… informal mentorship.”.

Maker graphic

Hearing the story of New Milford High School’s makerspace and how it came together is inspiring.  I love how Laura describes the planning process she went through as she created the space.  She focused first on talking to her students and finding out what their interests were.  She then assessed what the current curricula and course offerings at her school were.  She looked at the greater maker community and global technology trends.  She developed themes for her makerspace, including robotics, 3D printing and design, wearable tech, coding and electricity, among others.  Then she ordered materials based on supporting these themes.   I love this approach.  So many people want to immediately spend money on materials without a plan for what types of learning they want to support or what the interests of their students are.  By carefully considering student interests, curricula and themes, we can better support learning in our spaces.

“Maker education fosters curiosity, tinkering, and iterative learning, which in turn leads to better thinking through better questioning.  I beleive firmly that this learning environment fosters enthusiasm for learning, student confidence, and natural collaboration.” ~ Laura Fleming

Laura gives advice for setting up the physical space of your Makerspace (and what to do if you don’t have a dedicated physical space).  She talks about the importance of creating a Maker culture throughout your school.  Her discussion of Makerspaces and the standards is an excellent overview of how Makerspaces tie into the Common Core Standards, ISTE standards and AASL standards.  This is fantastic for those who are having a hard time getting support for creating a Makerspace in their school because of a perceived lack of relevance to students’ education.

“It is our responsibility as school librarians to promote effective and purposeful learning in our libraries, not to preserve is aspic some golden-age notion of the library as a repository of books and little else” ~Laura Fleming

If you haven’t bought it yet, go to Amazon right now and get Worlds of Making – it’s essential reading for anyone interested in Makerspaces :)

DonorsChoose: Help Young Entrepreneurs Change the World!


I’ve got a new DonorsChoose project (code SPARK til 3-25 for match!) up right now, and I’m pretty excited about it.  PWC has had a match offer recently for projects that teach financial literacy to students.  I thought about it for awhile and looked through other projects receiving the match to get ideas.  I also took some time to look through PWC’s middle school financial literacy curriculum to get some inspiration.  And then it clicked – part of financial literacy is learning about careers, and one aspect of many Makerspaces is entrepreneurship – these make a perfect pair.

I was inspired by a project that Jaymes Dec told me about when I visited the Marymount Fab Lab in New York City.  He challenged his students to create a project that made their school a better place.  Some of the projects his students came up with included a device that would play music anytime someone entered the elevator.  Another was a “flatterbox” that would deliver compliments when it sense someone swiping their card to enter the building.

My project combines several factors: the desire young people have to make a difference in the world, makerspaces as hubs for entrepreneurship, and learning how to create digital portfolios and documentation of projects.

Here’s what the project will entail:


We’ll be getting an assortment of books geared towards students on changing the world, making a difference, and becoming an entrepreneur.  I’ll be focusing this project on my afterschool STEAM club at first, although these materials will be available to all students afterwards.  We’ll meet and talk about what it means to become an entrepreneur, how it’s possible for young people to make a difference, and how to create a digital portfolio of their creations that they could potentially use later for job applications, patent applications, etc.


My students will be splitting into four groups, and each group will get an Arduino.  We’ll also be getting several books on programming Arduinos to help them learn how to use them.  Their challenge will be to find a way to invent something that can make our school a better place.  They’ll be able to use other Makerspace materials in their projects as well if they want (littleBits, MaKeyMaKey, Cubelets, etc)


As the groups come up with their inventions, they’ll be documenting the process using the iPads.  They’ll be taking pictures and videos.  They’ll be researching ideas on the iPads.  They’ll be app smashing to combine their documentation into a digital portfolio.   At the end of the challenge, they’ll present their projects and the portfolios to parents and students at our Mini MakerFaire event.

If you’d like to donate and help out my students, I’d be super appreciative.  I have a great group of students this year, and I’m excited for them to have their experience and discover that their creations can have an impact beyond the classroom.  Here’s the link, and if you use the code SPARK by 3-25, you donation will be matched.  Thank you :)

Makerspace Tour: The HIVE

*This post is part of an on-again off-again series where I visit makerspaces in schools, libraries and public/private spaces.  It’s a great chance to see the amazing diversity of spaces there are in the Maker Movement*


The HIVE is Tampa’s first public library Makerspace, and it’s awesome.  Their motto is “create – collaborate – cowork” and the space is fantastic for everyone from young makers to entrepreneurs to adults just wanting to learn some new skills.

The HIVE at John F Germany Library

The HIVE is located on the 3rd floor of the John F. Germany Library in downtown Tampa (fun fact: I worked at this branch during my public library days for about a year).  It opened up this past summer, and it’s already buzzing with activity.  Taking up the entire floor, the HIVE is divided into different work areas with a nice smattering of common areas for brainstorming and collaborating.

The Media:scape pit

The Media:scape Pit

The Media:scape Pit

I am pretty seriously jealous of the HIVE’s media:scape setup. I’ve drooled over this particular Steelcase setup for a long time.  The technology allows patrons to collaborate by sharing their devices’ screens with one another using a device connected to the monitor.  This side is set-up for groupwork/collaboration, which the other side is set up for small group instruction.  I took a class on Tinkercad there in the fall and got to make my first ever 3D printout.

The Makerspace

Makerbot Replicator 2

Makerbot Replicator 2

The HIVE has two Makerbot Replicator 2’s in their Makerspace area, and Hillsborough County library card holders are allowed to print for free thanks to the donation of filament from the Friends of the Library.  Patrons can even e-mail their .stl files and pick up the print-outs later.  Of course, I think it’s much more fun to get to watch them at work :)

Arduinos galore!

Arduinos galore!

The makerspace area of the HIVE includes a variety of tools for patrons to tinker with, including Arduinos, littleBits, a Shapeoko and hand-tools.

The Shapeoko

The Shapeoko

The Robotics Center

Robotics Center

Robotics Center

The HIVE has their very own First LEGO League team and they’ve got a great set-up for robotics team practices.  They’ve had several groups of students using this space, and it’s in a window enclosed area in the middle of the floor, so other visitors to the HIVE can watch al the robots at work.

The Arts Center

The Arts Center

The Arts Center

The arts center has whiteboard walls, arts and crafts supplies, sewing machines and a vinyl cutter.  The HIVE has already held several programs in this space, including one focused on teens creating cosplay outfits.

The Recording Studio

The Recording Studio

The Recording Studio

The Recording studio has a green screen, high quality cameras, recording and video editing software.  Library card holders can set up appointments to use the equipment here.  They were doing a pretty awesome green screen photobooth during one of my visits here.

The Flex Space

I didn’t get pictures of it somehow, but the flex space is a great group meeting area with movable tables and chairs, whiteboard walls, a projector setup for presentations, etc.  My district’s media specialists group, HASLMS (Hillsborough Association of School Library Media Specialists) held one of their meetings in this space.

If you’re in or around Tampa, I highly recommend checking out the HIVE.  It’s pretty awesome :)

Check out their Facebook page for up-to-date information.