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$17M California makers initiative creating community college model

March 01, 2017

The nation’s largest system of higher education with over 2 million students is trying to connect community colleges to their regional economies through a three-year, $17-million-dollar investment to establish a statewide network of maker-focused colleges. The California Community College (CCC) Maker Initiative may provide a model for community colleges to infuse making, innovation, and entrepreneurship into students’ college experiences while helping them prepare for STEM/STEAM careers with the necessary skills for 21st Century jobs.

 During the initiative’s developmental stage last year, the CCC Chancellor’s Office commissioned the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) to develop a report that provides a critical look at the makers movement, which included a playbook for creating a maker network across the state of California leveraging their community college system.

In Promoting Engagement of the California Community Colleges with the Maker Movement, CCST provides a vision for a network of makerspaces linked by a community college system. The vision included a startup checklist that covered requirements for staffing, planning, makerspace development, community and campus support, and funding strategies as well as potential metrics to employ. The report also includes a literature review and case studies and metrics for success for both independent and university-based makerspaces.

In late 2016, the Center for Applied Competitive Technologies, Sierra College – the network’s lead institution – released a white paper – Creating a Network of Community Colleges with Makerspaces: California’s InnovationMaker3 Model. The whitepaper provides the finalized open source model for the CCC Maker Initiative with specific sections including: lessons learned; challenges faced; and, intended outcomes.

The whitepaper also contends that the CCC Maker Initiative serves as an inclusive program that engages non-traditional students and instructors. It notes that 67 percent of California’s community college students are people of diverse ethnic backgrounds and roughly 53 percent are female. By deliberately engaging these populations through the new initiative, they will create makerspaces that are reflective of campus and community diversity.

They also believe that it can provide a platform for reforming social-economic problems through dialog and demonstrated outcomes. Anticipated outcomes include adaptable learning platforms that support student success; new delivery models designed and delivered by faculty; strong partnerships with business and industry that support student transitions to employment; metrics and evaluative models that communicate the value of makerspaces integrated into the educational environment; and the democratization of ‘Making’ and STEM/STEAM career paths and occupations.

Approximately five months into the project, the CCC Chancellor’s Office is currently providing guidance and professional development to targeted community colleges for developing not only the spaces themselves, but also the tools to incorporate the makerspaces into STEM curricula and into their local economies. In the CCC Maker Initiative’s first quarterly report (September to December 2016), Sierra College – the initiative’s lead institution – provided updates including project operations, statewide advisory board development, communication strategy, presentations/trainings, and partnerships/outreach. 

Californiacommunity college, maker spaces