The 4 components of Case Western Reserve University’s successful makerspace

Expert Insight

The 4 components of Case Western Reserve University’s successful makerspace

Hands-on learning has long been a central component of many students’ higher education experience, especially in science and technology. In fact, a handful of campuses have established formal spaces to enable students to transform their ideas into objects, irrespective of program. Commonly known as makerspaces, these areas have a variety of modern, high-tech tools inviting students to experiment and innovate.

Unlike existing labs or studios, makerspaces are not dedicated to a specific program. They are accessible to the entire campus, incorporating equipment and tools from multiple disciplines to facilitate self-directed learning and creation. Engineers, designers, and business students can use the same space to work on a common project, which better promotes interdisciplinary collaboration.

Institutions that decide to create a makerspace on campus must be willing to make a significant investment to ensure the space effectively facilitates student creation. At a minimum, an effective makerspace must include laser cutters, 3-D printers, graphic design software, vinyl cutters, circuit board routers, and sewing machines. The best makerspaces also have tables and open spaces for collaboration and support staff to maintain equipment, train users, and ensure safety. The equipment and support necessary to get a new makerspace up and running can cost between $500 thousand and $1 million.

One school that has successfully created a makerspace is Case Western Reserve University. Read on to learn how they established their makerspace as a nationally recognized model.

Case Western’s Sears think[box] makes an early impact

Case Western Reserve University’s Sears think[box] is widely recognized as one of the best campus makerspaces in the U.S. Launched in 2012, the 50,000-square-foot facility is managed by 10 full-time staff and 60 student workers and is open to the entire university and Cleveland community.

Case Western showcases important lessons around developing impactful makerspaces. In particular, there are four areas of significant investment by Case Western that helped ensure long-term success:

  1. Invest in high-quality, heavily utilized equipment
  2. Position facility to improve space utilization and ease of access
  3. Focus on equipment choice and human resources over placement
  4. Enforce protocols to ensure user safety

In only a few years, think[box] has achieved noteworthy results. Over 100 student startup companies have launched businesses using think[box] and LaunchNet—a related office of support for student startups. Student startups have now raised over $10 million to date in external funding including sales, investments and grants.

By following Case Western’s example and investing in the four lesson areas above, universities can reduce risk and impact on institutional resources while also increasing its efficiency and return on investment.

Learn more about the growing appeal of makerspaces

For more about makerspaces in higher education, download our brief to hear how to manage up-front cost, facilitate self-directed learning, and build momentum across campus and in the community. Download the brief.

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