ATLANTIC CITY, NJ -- We continue our coverage of the annual NJEA Convention by speaking with Maker Depot, a makerspace facility in Totowa, NJ, where kids can create and build objects of their own design. Michael Franchino, Co-founder of Maker Depot, spoke with TAPintoTV about the maker movement and the skills this type of hands-on learning imparts to students.

“The maker movement really injects that, ‘Hey--I can do this!’,” said Franchino. “It teaches all sorts of different types of skills that can be used later in life: design thinking skills, troubleshooting skills, everything,” he said. “We know how to utilize this technology so that if a child can see and feel something, it really makes it more real.”

Maker Depot’s work focuses on hands-on projects, ranging from technology-infused designs using 3D printing, to woodworking and electronics. Maker Depot regularly facilitates professional development workshops for educators interested in learning more about the maker movement and STEM education (STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).

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Although Maker Depot uses a range of high-end technology, Franchino says the maker movement is about more than bells and whistles. “We don’t focus on the equipment,” he said. “We focus on how you can utilize that equipment in your current curriculum.”

One surprising thing kids learn in the maker movement is a sense of empathy, which is often woven into a project design. “Children need to be able to build not for themselves but for some other person,” said Franchino. “We have certain games that we use that allows that child to stand in the shoes of somebody else and understand what their needs are.”

“It just makes us a better society when people can understand where everyone is coming from,” Franchino continued. “Not everyone is the same--that’s the greatest thing about what we are. And now this allows a child who may not be able to see that, to appreciate that.”