Makerspaces, sometimes also referred to as hackerspaces, hackspaces, and fablabs are creative, DIY spaces where people can gather to create, invent, and learn. In libraries, they often have 3D printers, software, electronics, craft and hardware supplies and tools, and more.
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Best Makerspace Apps
3D Printing –
A 3D printer is a common piece of equipment in makerspaces, but getting kids’ original designs on it can be tricky. Effective use of the 3D printer as a learning tool allows kids to make their own designs to print, rather than just finding files from other designers to use. For young kids, many CAD (Computer Assisted Design) programs are too complex or sophisticated, but below are some apps that will make 3D design simple enough for kids as young as 7 or 8. And others can now turn student drawn work into a printable file as well.
Tinkercad – Tinkercad is a great CAD design app for beginners, even as young as elementary students. Very visual and very user-friendly. Students can drag and manipulate blocks and pre-loaded shapes to create objects for 3D printing. Designs can be shared publicly in a gallery, downloaded for 3D printing, or exported into Minecraft.
Morphi (9.99) – Morphi allows users to design objects for 3D printing. Where it differs from some other apps, however, is that it will extract a 3D printable file from a photo or drawing. This makes it possible to turn student work into a 3D printable file that can be shared by email for saving. The free version of the app is available with an inapp purchase of add-on features.
Tinkerplay – Highly engaging app from Autodesk, the makers of Tinkercad that encourages users to design characters and elements to combine in a game module also of their design. The creation process is very similar to Tinkercad, making it accessible and user-friendly, but the addition of the gaming elements help users understand the purposeful integration of their designs.
Blokify – Blokify is a 3D modeling app that allows kids to create using cubes. It is very accessible to even younger students, so kids can create and print toys to play with. The creations are comprised only of cubes, making it very similar visually to Minecraft.
123D Design – Another app from Autodesk, 123D Design is a more intermediate version of Tinkercad. While still user-friendly, menus and tools are more advanced.
123D Catch – Also from Autodesk, 123D Catch is similar to a 3D scanner. Like Morphi, the app allows users to create 3D images for editing or exporting from a photo. Appropriate for more intermediate or advanced CAD users.
Part of the design process that we focus on in a makerspace is sharing your work with others. Presentation and Production apps allow students to explain their learning, narrate pictures of their work, or share their final products through digital portfolios or slideshows. This is also so helpful when a student is using equipment in the makerspace that needs to be returned (Legos, for example). These apps allow them to document their work before they have to take it back apart.
Seesaw – Seesaw is a versatile and simple online journal/portfolio app. Students can upload photos, videos, drawings, notes, files, links, or blog posts to a personalized feed. Parents can subscribe from their own device to view, comment on, or download their child’s work. Excellent tool for parent communication, student self-reflection, and accountability.
Explain Everything – presentation creation app in which students can create a slideshow and insert video, pictures, websites, screen capture, animations, voice recording, and drawings. This is a very versatile app and great for sharing work.
Stop Motion Studio – very user-friendly animation app in which users add pictures and turn them into a stop motion video. This is wonderful for showing progression over time, animating simple drawings, writing, and Lego building.
DoInk Green Screen – (2.99) excellent app for use in creating videos with or without a greenscreen background. Users can layer images, video files, and video recordings to create high-quality videos.
Thinglink – Fun app that can be used to create interactive images. Add links, video, and text to images with this app. Finished projects can also be published to social media.
There is a push to have all students learning how to code. As a result, developers are coming out with some very user-friendly coding apps for students of all ages. Once students understand the basics of coding, they are able to program much of the equipment found in makerspaces – MaKey MaKeys, Arduinos, Spheros, Lego WeDo motors, and more.
Scratch Jr – introductory coding app for young children. Using a block dragging format, students can create animations using the pre-loaded graphics or by adding their own.
Hopscotch – more advanced coding app for older children. This app has two options – playing the pre-made challenges, in which the user needs to guide a character through a challenge by writing the correct code; and creation, which allows users to choose a character and write their own code for it. Coding is in the block dragging format, with quite a large selection of commands available.
Tynker – Much like Hopscotch, Tynker is a more advanced coding app that allows users to choose between playing their pre-made puzzles and writing their own code. Tynker uses block dragging to create code and is quite versatile. Even younger students find Tynker easy to navigate and engaging.
Wendy Harrop is the Learning Resource Teacher at Summit Elementary Shcool ,in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. She teaches Library/Technology classes in the library and the Makerspace for students from K through 4th grade. She also helps integrate technology throughout the building and is the gifted coordinator for Summit School. Wendy is in her 21st year of teaching. When she’s not teaching, or making/exploring new technology, she loves traveling, cooking, reading, being outdoors, and playing with my her two sons.