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Project M@CH: Makerspace at Children's Hospital

Brandon, a senior in high school and an aspiring engineer, was restricted from returning to school while undergoing treatment for leukemia at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. The Hospital School Program and I came up with an idea to provide Brandon with a variety of digital and physical materials, such as an Arduino microcontroller, LEDs, 3-D modeling software, LEGO’s, strings, & plastic cups. Using the given physical and digital materials, Brandon designed, invented and created a “Nurse Night Light” to, “light up the bathroom in a hospital at night just enough for a nurse to be able to look in the bathroom and see if anything needed to be dumped or not. Keeping the nurse from having to turn the light on and possibly waking the patient.”

An idea was born from this experience with Brandon.To support other patients like Brandon who are interested in Engineering, Technology and hands on activities, we came up with an idea to create a "Makerspace" within the hospital to support creative and intellectually empowering experiences for the patients and their loved ones. Makerspaces are places where groups and individuals of diverse ages, genders, and backgrounds come together to “make”: to mess around at the crossroads and fringes of disciplines such as science,technology, engineering,art and math.

We are designing and implementing the first Makerspace in a children's hospital. This novel, mobile, maker environment not only provides patients with creative outlets and learning opportunities, but also an occasion for the hospital to explore new avenues in patient care and might just spark an idea for a career or new medical equipment. The Mobile Makerspace meets health,safety and accessibility requirements of the children.Its philosophy is rooted in understanding the unique needs of patients and families, and in constructivist educational approaches. We hope to inspire other hospitals with space restrictions to create and use mobile makerspaces.

Funded by Boston, MA (March 2014)