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New technology allowing 3D printing is being used to create everything from food to body parts, and is also being used at Beatrice Middle School.

Makerspace is a collaborative work space in schools and libraries across the country that focuses on making, learning, exploring and sharing using high tech to no tech tools.

This includes using paper, scissors and glue, as well as computers, iPads, 3D pens and, of course, 3D printers.

“Makerspace is a push to get kids making,” said Karen Dittbrenner, media specialist at BMS. “Kids just don’t make with their hands like they used to. You see it in school. Teachers ask for projects, the projects are a lot of times kind of pitiful, because kids just don’t do things with their hands that don’t involve remotes as much or hardly at all. Makerspace is getting them to make something.”

Makerspace is held Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday during study hall. Every day a different grade is chosen, and four students per study hall are picked to go to Makerspace. The grades are rotated through, which means each week one grade will have a chance to go twice in a week.

Dittbrenner said that Makerspace has been an “educational buzzword” for the last few years.

“We jumped in, and I’m excited because we’re one of the ones in the [Educational Service Unit 5] that everybody is checking in with us to see ‘what do you have? How do you do it? Can we come visit?’" she said. "Freeman just sent five teachers over to see what we were doing, see what we had, and talk about how it runs then ask if they could use some of the stuff that we have developed.”

John Jarosh, Principal at BMS, said the technology is giving students in Beatrice opportunities that didn't previously exist.

“When I grew up, there was nothing like some of the things they do," he said. "When we wanted to do something, we went to the store and bought a model, so we got used to some technical reading and how to put stuff together. I’m really blessed that I have people that just take things and run with them. I basically provide spiritual support, funding, time and the space, and Karen takes it from there.”

Dittbrenner explained the process of how students learn to 3D print.

“When they make something the first time, just to get them excited about it, I let them go take something from sites that you can take them for free,” Dittbrenner said. “So your first print can be something you didn’t create at all. You kind of steal it from the internet, from the creative commons, that’s what it’s designed for.

“In order to print the next one, if they go take something from Creative Commons and bring it in, they’ve got to alter it.”

She added a goal of Makerspace is to get students making something functional, like a gear that could repair a toy car.

Dittbrenner said that due to the amount of time allotted, if students wait for her to give instructions there isn’t enough time to get things done.

“From a teacher that likes them sitting and everything just so, this is a stretch for me,” Dittbrenner said. “It is pretty chaotic and I’m moving to get to kids, one with a hand up and one hollering ‘hey, I need my password,’ that kind of stuff. For the most part it works pretty well.”

Dittbrenner doesn't want to discourage students from learning, but she also does not give them the answers.

“A lot of the kids want you to tell them exactly how to do it, and when you won’t just feed them exactly how to do it and you make them do trial and error – go watch this tutorial, go see what this step-by-step guide has for you – a lot of kids get frustrated,” Dittbrenner said. “They want me to stand right there and tell them click here, click there, do this, do that, so I think that’s a huge challenge for the kids, having to figure out how they can do it on their own.”

The next step for the school is to bring Makerspace into classrooms.

Dittbrenner said students have also gotten a chance to 3D print and use biscuit cutters in Jan Smaus’ family and consumer science class.

Last month, the Beatrice Public Library received internship grant funding from the Nebraska Library Commission. The interns hired will be working with the Transforming Rural Communities’ Makerspace grant.

“If we can start some services at the middle school that kids could either help you with or that we can grow from there, to get people from the community excited, we sure would be willing to do that,” Dittbrenner said.

Dittbrenner said the community is welcome to see 3D printing in person, if they set up a time by emailing her at kdittbrenner@bpsnebr.org

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