Makerspace Storage Solutions

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I’ve had a lot of questions about storage for maker tools, so I wanted to compile a list of maker storage solutions I’ve tried over the years.

Microcontroller Storage Solutions

Arduinos, Micro:bit, and Makey Makey are awesome tools, but they don’t come in user or library friendly storage containers. Lately, I’ve been buying photo storage boxes to contain my microcontrollers in a compact and clear solution. What I love about these Iris photo keepers is that 6 of the the containers fit inside another clear unit. Plus, you can easily spot that you have your Makey Makey, alligator clips, and USB cable when students hand the kits back.

Soliz’s 5th grade Ss are starting #MakeyMakey marble mazes today! #makered #evilmakeybook

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If you have some old clear VHS cases, they are also perfect for storing Makey Makey and accessories! I saw Diana Rendina do this at FETC last year, and I almost looked for back stock so I could put all of my Makey Makeys in old VHS boxes!

However, you might want to store things like Play-doh inside your Makey Makey kits, if so a larger storage box works great too. Check out Bill Steinbach’s storage solution:

I’m use these photo boxes to store table supplies for workshops too. Below is a kit for creating paper circuits during a Makey Makey Invention Literacy workshop. These little boxes are great for storing rolls of copper tape, drawing pencils, foil, batteries, and coincell battery holders.

Table group resources in a handy photo storage box! #makered #hacks

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The Iris Photo Keeper sized 4X6 is also good for Micro:bit and accessories.  This size is perfect for the cable, controller, and battery holder. If you want to store more accessories, you’ll want to go a box size up.

Organizing my #Microbit sets this am. #makerlibrarian #makered #photostoragehack

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Consumable/Recyclables Maker Storage

At Ryan High School with the help of my ITS, Leslie Terronez, we organized all of our materials in these large tubs and labeled accordingly. (See more about the process in this previous post.)

These tubs helped students find things quickly.  I ended up moving all of this organized chaos to the “maker classroom” side of the library at Ryan, and then used these huge shelves behind the circulation desk for “in-progress” projects. During our Invention Literacy projects with 10th grade, I quickly realized that I need to move our consumables far away from our non-consumable items like knitting needles, Raspberry Pi components, etc. I needed all recyclable and prototyping material far away from things I didn’t want torn up. During that project, students sawed knitting wooden needles in half to make catapults!  I didn’t get upset with them for their creative reuse, but oh my! If only I’d remembered Krissy Venosdale’s Maker Confession we’d discussed at SXSWedu last year!

At my new library, I have mostly only recyclables and and consumables. So I keep my Micro:bit and Makey Makeys near our computers and I have a wall of recyclables clearly labeled for students to use in projects. I’ve also learned to cut my cardboard into square and rectangle sheets so it’s a little more accessible for my elemakers.

It’s handy to save round things in a bin labeled “round-wheel like things”, cardboard tubes, interesting plastic, soft things, pom poms, straws, popsicle sticks, etc in your consumable area. However, with younger students remember to tell them not to be wasteful. You may even have to limit how many materials they can use. During our Micro:bit pet project, Mrs. Honea and I saw the kids decimate all of my sorted reuse materials in 2 minutes! Plus, they only gathered them all and then had to put them back. It’s important for students to understand that they do not have HOARD materials because they will stay in your storage tubs for further use.

Storing Works In Progress

Last year I noticed that it was getting harder to keep “in progress” projects organized on the shelves. So I decided to buy tubs that students could label with their names and an expiration date. If they were working on a project of their own, they needed to write an expiration date. If they were working as a class, they just needed to label the tub with their names. At Ryan I kept these behind the circulation desk. At my new school, I keep in progress projects on empty shelves in my office so idle hands do not find them and destroy them. Read more about the in-progress shelves in this post I wrote last year.

During the “works in-progress” clean up, I also tried out making a re-purpose it bin. This seemed like a good idea for repurposing old projects, but not many of my high school students would go through it to look for parts. It might work better in elementary, since the kids really love scavenging items. Only time will tell!

The red tubs work great for in progress work when I have one whole class working on a project. For open maker time projects, these little containers with lids work a little better. An expiration date is necessary for free lance projects because sometimes kids abandon projects for a long time. I can’t tell you how many times a students would come back months after they started a project. It’s always difficult to tell them you’ve recycled their work, but it becomes a little easier when you have an expiration date on the bin!

Skinny containers with lids are great for storing sewing and sewing circuit projects!

Throwback to Lamar Middle School

I started the in-progress shelves when I was working at Lamar. At the time, it was just empty shelving for student projects. When I stored projects like this at Ryan, inevitably someone would mess with another student’s project. That’s why it’s important to use bins or storage tubs to keep work separated and safe.

Need More Ideas for Makerspace Storage?

Visit your local re-use stores to get more great storage ideas! Scrap Denton had great ideas for re-purposing old containers for consumables supplies. At Ryan, I used biscotti tubs that a teacher gave me to store consumables like popsicle sticks and wooden dowels. To keep your area looking neat, make sure your up-cycled containers are all matching! You can reuse tennis ball containers for ribbons, popsicle sticks, etc! While you are at your re-use store, be environmentally friendly by picking up more supplies for your makerspace instead of buying all brand new materials.

Pinterest always has great one trick ideas too! I found this great way to organize thread by hot gluing golf tees to the top tub of tool box drawer.

What are some of your favorite storage ideas? See my previous post about makerspace storage for ideas on storing littleBits, Sphero, and more!

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4th Grade Circuit Stations and Interactive Switches

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A few years ago, I saw an interactive paper circuit mural on Twitter and was enamored with the idea of a large oversized collaborative paper circuit. I had a bit of trouble tracking down the original, but finally found it (thanks to Ryan Jenkins and Aaron Vanderwerff), and this collaborative lesson design from Creativity Lab at the Lighthouse Community Charter school. (Make your own oversized paper circuit thanks to Creativity Lab!)

Aaron V. also suggested using two different types of tape to differentiate between the positive and negative routing. (A GREAT TIP for students new to paper circuits!)

I loved the idea of the collaborative circuit, but was worried with my short time in the library and not having enough facilitators, that my students would get frustrated too easily.

Plus, I wanted students to create simple circuits in a different station and at this station, I wanted them to focus on completing the circuit by creating inventive switches (and playing with what is conductive and what is an insulator.)

By building an oversized paper circuit with multiple breaks where switches would need to be created, I hoped to create a playful atmosphere. One of the happy accidents of this prototype, was that students would not only have to complete each circuit to have all LEDS light up in parallel, but they would also have to work collaboratively to make sure all the lights stayed on!

I tried it out on my own 8 YO to make sure it was “tinkerable.”

Only 4-5 students could be at the collaborative paper circuit at once, and my other stations needed a little more guidance.  After the Scratch poetry unit, many of my 4th graders were enamored with Makey Makey, so one station was to test items for conductivity with Makey Makey (and their teachers manned this station.) I basically just set up a lot of weird stuff, and set out Makey Makeys with computers directed to the Makey Makey piano. They tracked their learning on a clipboard, and the students just loved finding out that water, plants, and fruit is conductive.

With the help of my QUEST teachers, I had a station where students created simple paper circuits using the Chibitronics template/ and squishy circuits.

The last station was the inventive switch station. Since I wanted this spot to be the most self-guided and playful, I set up the Tinkering Studio video about homemade switches, and told the group their goal was to light up all the LEDS…. then I let them play!

We had fun playing and seeing what materials would work on the oversized circuit. It was cool to see students engaged with curiosity and tinkering to learn!