As industry adapts to rapidly advancing technology, so do the schools that produce its future employees, entrepreneurs and business owners.
Creating makerspaces, versatile environments where students can create anything their heart desires, is becoming a powerful tool in education. Now that Logan High School’s years-long construction and redesign process is nearly complete, a former cafeteria has transformed into a large, open room that is waiting to be filled.
By the end of the month, Logan City School District is expected to make the final vote on the purchase of $314,000 in makerspace equipment, including a $61,000 laser cutter, a $60,000 3D printer, a 3D scanning system, software and training.
“If you want to make it, if it’s part of a project, we want to have the tools to be able to do that,” said Dustin Allen, a computer science teacher at Logan High.
Allen is part of the career and technical education program at the high school. CTE includes family consumer science, business, engineering, robotics, computer science and health occupations.
“Our main focus is to get kids ready for a career, or college … to have some kind of skill when they leave,” he said.
Where high schools of the past might have had separate rooms for a wood shop or a metal shop, Allen said makerspaces generally have one or two of each type of tool. The goal is to be able to make everything in one area.
David Long, LCSD educational and technical services director, said the purpose of CTE courses is to allow students to explore career choices. By exposing them to a broad range of tools, he said they can help find a more focused program at Bridgerland Technical College or USU that matches their interests.
That offering of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, courses then works in concert with the arts program at Logan High, Long said. Fashion and interior design students can use the makerspace to make, print and etch patterns into any material they want.
“Now, all of a sudden, that just expands the vision of our students and what they will go out into society and create,” Long said.
For Allen, the incoming equipment means more opportunities to open up the makerspace to the community. He said he would love to hold community projects after school or on the weekend. One idea is to invite people to create handheld Game Boy replicas, called a “Pi Boy,” by installing tiny Raspberry Pi computers into 3D-printed Game Boy shells.
“It’s just for fun,” Allen said. “I’d like to see things like that happen.”
He said the makerspace could function as a shared-use facility like the Logan Community Recreation Center. If tech-minded individuals from the community and local businesses start using the makerspace, Allen said everyone would benefit.
“It’s going to be a benefit to the community because they can come use it, but I think we’re going to get way more out of it by just having their experience and knowledge,” he said.
In another shift in technology — and culture — Allen started an “eSports” club at Logan High last year for video gamers. He said video games have been gaining popularity as spectator sports throughout the world. And colleges are taking notice. The University of Utah is now offering athletic scholarships for eSports.
“They can get a full-ride athletic scholarship to play video games,” he said.
Logan students competed against 50 other schools last year in “League of Legends,” a battle-arena video game. Allen said they won first place in their region but lost in the first round of national competition.
“People think that’s just a waste of time, but you think of what’s happening in video games with virtual reality programs and other programming, and those skills are transferable,” Long said, “It’s not just playing video games anymore.”
With the constant transformation of technology, Long said it can be hard to predict what might be needed in coming years.
The equipment the school district is expected to purchase will last for 10 years and will remain useful for those 10 years regardless of new technology. If and when the need for new technology arises, Long said the makerspace is built with an open format to accommodate pretty much anything — which is important in this day and age.