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Students explore Brookfield’s Makerspace room

Staff photo / Bob Coupland Sami McAnany, a Brookfield High School junior, uses equipment in the school’s Makerspace room, including a laser cutter. Various processes are used to make items out of wood, cardboard, acrylic and fabric.

BROOKFIELD — Students at Brookfield schools are gaining experience with the latest technology and equipment made possible by a $60,000 grant.

A Makerspace room was created at the high school, and while it was ready for use in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic delayed students getting a full year of using it.

George Lesnansky, Makerspace coordinator for the district, said Superintendent Toby Gibson was middle school principal in Brookfield five years ago and suggested starting a Makerspace room.

“Makerspace is relatively new in the world of education. Mr. Gibson traveled to Pittsburgh and other schools in the area and in Pennsylvania to see what their Makerspace rooms were like and what we could offer our students here. The biggest issue became funding for the equipment, which can be expensive,” Lesnansky said.

Gibson and Lesnansky looked for grants, and the district received a $60,000 grant in late 2019 from the Arconic Foundation.

“We are up and running now. After we received the grant and then the equipment and training in early 2020, the room was ready, but the schools had to be shut down,” Gibson said.

In a large display cabinet are three shelves filled with various items and products made in the Makerspace room and the eight processes, such as a 3D printer and laser cutter, used to make the items out of wood, cardboard, acrylic and fabric. The student-, staff- and community member-designed items include buttons, stickers, T-shirts, embroidery, banners, decal logos and figurines.

“This has been an incredible experience for the students. There is a Makerspace class the students take to learn how to make different items. The display case shows the kids what they can do. Students can do all this in house,” Lesnansky said.

He said students in third grade and older take part in the program, with older students making items for the high school’s spirit shop.

“The students are able to create, design, market and sell their products. This component was slowed down because of the pandemic. Now students can use the software to design something and then cut it out of acrylic, cardboard, plastics and vinyl,” Lesnansky said.

He said Declan Construction brought material and lumber for the class to use. Lesnansky said the community and businesses have been supportive.

The large Makerspace room includes a laser engraver, 3D printer, vinyl printer, button press, heat press, embroidery machine and carving machine.

“The first time someone sees the room it is overwhelming. There is so much to see and do,” Lesnansky said.

Isabella Foust, a junior, said students in her marketing class were trying to sell items for winter, so a snowman design was created for shirts.

The snowman drawing she made was scanned into the illustrator equipment with Foust able to do work electronically before the image was cut from material using a laser cutter.

“It has been great to be able to learn to use the equipment. There is a lot of creative freedom. You create something and learn how to bring it to life through hands on learning,” Foust said.

Davis Masirovits, a sophomore, said he was not sure what to expect when he enrolled in the Makerspace I class.

“I am glad I am in the class. I like the hands-on learning and getting to use the technology,” he said.

Sami McAnany, a junior, said her mother is a band booster and needed a sign for a concession stand, coming to the Makerspace room for help.

“It fascinated me what they were able to do here to help her and all the other stuff. I helped make my mom’s banner. I felt so proud I was able to learn to do this and signed up for the Makerspace class,” she said.

Jim Haywood, Maker-space instructor, said students use a lot of math to solve problems and do assignments.

“There are a lot of students who did not even know this was here. With this facility, we are very cutting edge,” he said.

Lesnansky said he always puts completed projects next to the equipment so students can see what it is capable of doing.

“I don’t know if anyone could have imagined a Makerspace room would be in the future of education. I have seen a lot of changes. This has made a model school so that other schools interested in Makerspace they come here and see what we have,” said Lesnansky, who has 33 years in education and 22 in Brookfield.

He said his daughter, who works at the Great Lakes Science Center, does not have all this equipment.

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