Show Me The Money

 

Most people are enamored with digital manufacturing machines when they first see them.  3D printers are still new enough that many people have never seen one in person, let alone understand how they work.  Laser cutters and CNC machines have been around, but if you are working a normal job, you probably have never seen one in action.  Once you understand that these tools of creation can be harnessed in a project-based learning environment to improve the learning outcomes of students, you want to find out how to include these in your school.  The logical next step would be to build a makerspace at your school.  Many administrators know that this will have a positive impact on their students, but the first question is always how are we going to pay for this?  There are several ways to approach makerspace financing.

The first and easiest way to finance a makerspace is to pay for it out of the yearly budget of the school. I know what you’re thinking, our budget is already stretched thin as it is and could not accommodate a makerspace at this time.  Many schools have budgeted for facilities improvement costs in their existing budget. Depending on the size of the budget and the scale of the project, a makerspace could be created in an underutilized classroom.  Many schools find after consultation that the cost to put a makerspace in is lower than what they expected.  Another aspect to consider is that a sustainable robust makerspace should serve all students in the school, not just a small subset.  This makes it much easier to justify the cost since it’s serving the entire student population.

Many states and organizations offer grants to schools pursuing STEM related projects.  Makerspaces are not only a STEM project, but can additionally turbo-charge the other initiatives that the school has in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields.  Grants can be an excellent way of covering some or all the cost of a makerspace installation.

And even better, though sometimes a little more difficult, option would be to partner with some of your local businesses or manufacturers. These companies have a vested interest in making sure that the schools around them are producing students with the skill sets that they need. Contrary to popular belief, there are many manufacturers in the United States that are having difficulty finding employees with the skill sets necessary to compete in an advanced manufacturing world.  many of these companies are willing to contribute financially, in kind, or through relationships to make a fab lab happen at their local school. and even better reason to foster these relationships is that these same companies can be very helpful in the future education of the students via tours and guest speakers.

An option available the schools Interested in a turn key fab lab solution is that they can purchase it through prenegotiated cooperative purchasing contracts. An example of this is the Sourcewell contract which is available in many states. There are several big advantages to purchasing through a contract like this period this trusted process satisfies bid requirements since it already went through a negotiation process. It runs through a government agency that works similar to how your school district works. Because there are 50,000 members, they can get the best price. It is very convenient to purchase from as there are many trusted brands under the contract and it’s an easy no cost membership.

But what if you’re convinced of the need for makerspace at your school but you still feel that you just don’t have the budget?  Many schools will say that they could do a portion this year and then maybe some the next year. If you’re in this situation, you can take advantage of a tax-exempt municipal lease purchase program. These programs are designed specifically for public entities and their legal requirements. This maximizes budgets because the entire project cost does not need to fit into the budget just the annual lease payments. They’re typically zero down with no payments required up front.  It’s a lease to own with no residual or buy out at the end of the lease.  This also includes a non-appropriation clause and as a result voter approval is not needed.  Even better, if you required to go out to bid you can couple this with the Sourcewell contract.

If you would like to learn more about how your organization can confidently implement a makerspace in a comprehensive manner, contact our PHabLAB experts at phab-lab.com.  We will be happy to discuss with you how to move your school forward with project-based learning through technology.

Happy making!

Luke Jumper