Design Thinking,  Personalization of Learning

Ideas are Cheap, but Prototypes Cost: Learning Business Skills in a Makerspace

“Ideas are cheap. Execution is everything.” — Chris Sacca (on Shark Tank)

Makerspaces are fun. I love seeing students discover new ideas, and new ways to represent those ideas, within a makerspace. There’s just something magical about turning twine, an egg carton, and a plastic spoon into a prototype for a prosthetic arm.

But today I saw a twist on the makerspace concept. 5th grade students, ideating and designing prototypes for a Shark Tank product and pitch they were developing, had to strategically “purchase” makerspace supplies within the confines of a budget. Every pipe cleaner, every egg carton, had a cost associated, and project teams found out today that they have only $40 allocated to build the prototype. Need to hire an expert to drill a hole for you? There’s a cost. Want to try to do it yourself? Sure, but you’ll need to rent the drill. Buy 6 pipe cleaners but only need 3? Sorry, no refunds. Maybe another project team will buy your surplus materials, but chances are, they’ll want a reduced price.

For some, this may seem like a stifling of the makerspace experience. But for these students, understanding the cost to build the prototype is important. Tamara, the school Library Tech, uses her experience as a former Product Manager to teach students how businesses develop, build, and market new products so that students can create a solid business plan to present to the Shark Tank panel. The panel, consisting of local business leaders in technology, real estate, and angel investing, are looking for products that not only engage the target user, but have a profit margin that will earn them money.

“Schools are turning to makerspaces to facilitate activities that inspire confidence in young learners, and help them acquire entrepreneurial skills that are immediately applicable in the real world” (NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition, p. 39).

“Schools are turning to makerspaces to facilitate activities that inspire confidence in young learners, and help them acquire entrepreneurial skills that are immediately applicable in the real world” (NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition, p. 39). These students are making so much more than a prototype in the makerspace; They are making their way into the future with the skills that matter most.

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