12 Questions to Ask When Deciding on Makerspace Equipment

  • Published: Monday, Sept. 21, 2020

There are many options when it comes to equipping your makerspace with tools and gadgets. How do you decide which you should purchase and which you should pass on? We’ve compiled a list of 12 questions to ask yourself as you are evaluating which tools will be best for your program.

  1. How much does it cost? Whether this is a factor or not depends on your situation, but it is always the first question people ask.
  2. How easy is it to get? Supply chain problems continue to plague the makerspace market. Special or new tools (or big kits) can be in short supply. It has taken our makerspace over six months to get some tools.
  3. Are there classroom kits? Regardless of whether you are in a classroom or a library, classroom kits offer several advantages. Consolidated storage, special multi-connection power adapters, access to special classroom content and a discount per item definitely make them worth a look.
  4. How much space does it need? Or rather, how much space do YOU have? For example, Ozobot robots can be operated on a piece of paper. Sphero robots, however, need an entire room.
  5. How/where will you store it? Storage is key not only to keep your makerspace organized, but also to protect your tools and keep them secured. Some tools (especially classroom kits) come with their own storage.
  6. Does it require consumables (and can you sub)? Paper, markers and colors, batteries? All these have to be factored into the total cost of a lifetime of Ozobots or iPad apps, etc.
  7. What about the batteries? Are they internal or external? Are they rechargeable or do you have to keep replacements on hand?
  8. How does it charge? If you don’t get kits that have multichargers, one thing you will run out of rapidly is outlets. Do you have enough power strips to plug everything in without the fire marshal shutting you down? Also, how long does a charge last? One class? One day? If you have to recharge it, how long does that take? It varies widely by tool.
  9. Is it scalable through grades (or does that matter)? Some tools are very focused on certain age groups; others can be used with any age group. Take a look at the community and resources available to see if it can cover the students you want to keep interested.
  10. Is there a community online or through the app that provides lessons and activities? Speaking of community, some are better than others. Some give you a few tutorials to get you started and then you are on your own. Some have full blown communities of teachers and experts that create content, classes and even challenges and contests. A few also have forums where you can ask questions of other professionals and experts using the tools on a daily basis.
  11. How do you drive it? A lot of tools (robots, some electronic circuit building tools, drones, etc.) require an app to use them. You either need a fleet of tablets, allow students to use their phones or you have to be careful to choose tools that match the tech you have available.
  12. Can it be integrated with other tools? Many maker tools such as robots and electronics kits can be integrated into other technology as your makerspace grows. For example, littleBits electronics kits have special bits that allow them to interact with Makey Makey and Arduino circuit control boards.