Chester County IU 24: Bright ideas blossom in community-oriented makerspace

STEM has reached buzzword status in education, but not every teacher is equipped to infuse daily lessons with hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math.

Chester County Intermediate Unit came to that realization as it developed a STEM Consortium and broke ground on its unique brand of makerspace. In CCIU’s custom-designed Horizon Hub, students turn STEM dreams into reality, while teachers experience their own revelations about innovating in the classroom.

The Horizon Hub opened in fall 2016, pursuing its mission of “Cultivating Tomorrow’s Innovators Today.” With comfortable gathering areas, writable walls and tables, and cabinets stocked with craft supplies and gadget-making kits, it’s a versatile space for hands-on research, experimentation, and development by anyone ready to dream.  

“How do we create and test ideas?” said Kate Lange, STEM coordinator in CCIU’s Innovative Educational Services Division. “How do we prototype, and how do we experiment? We’re using that idea of design thinking in our messaging about the hub because it’s applicable to any problem, whether you’re a teacher, student, business, or community member using the space.”

In one session, teachers learning about the Makey Makey invention kit, whose alligator clips connect everyday objects like bananas to computers for imaginative uses. The teachers were shown a short video and then let loose to explore cabinets for materials. One teacher turned glue sticks into a computer controller, said Lange, but as teachers discussed Makey Makey’s classroom applications, they realized that self-driven learning was the real eye-opener of the experience.

“They talked a lot about not just the tool but how the workshop was presented so they all had free rein to work according to their own learning styles,” said Lange.

The Horizon Hub’s dual purpose as learning center and community asset converge when Chester County Technical College High School students used the space to build their entry for the regional Governor’s STEM Competition.

“We want the space to be utilized by anybody that walks through our doors,” says Lange. “The Horizon Hub offers tomorrow’s innovators a place where they can explore new concepts and learn how to turn ideas into reality.”

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