Makerspace to enhance hands-on learning at Collegiate

Innovation and creation are two words that are ingrained with Norfolk Collegiate’s curriculum and mission.

Our Theater Director Brendan Hoyle has proposed a makerspace movement to enhance Collegiate’s curriculum.

Hoyle’s idea is to establish community hubs for innovation throughout our lower, middle and upper school campus.

“The general concept of a makerspace is a physical location where students gather to share resources and knowledge and work on projects within a school setting,” said Hoyle.

The makerspace will function under the model of inquiry-based learning. It will allow students the opportunity to solve problems, work on projects that they identify with and projects that they are passionate about exploring.

“I’ve been fascinated by the growing maker movement for a couple of years,” said Hoyle. “It’s a culture that promotes a do-it-yourself philosophy hand-in-hand with the belief that anyone can create anything they dream of in this current age of rapidly advancing technology.”  

The space will enhance Collegiate’s hands-on learning concept by creating a place for passionate creators to mold their ideas.

Students will be tasked to ask their own questions and seek their own answers with the makerspance’s tool and materials serving as enablers on their quest.

“These students will be connecting the dots in their studies by building things that support their ideas about what they are learning,” Hoyle said. “Each division’s makerspace will have aspects that will be primary focal points, including robotics, coding basic programming in the lower school; Destination Imagination and related projects in the middle school; and larger team and individual projects in the upper school.”

This do-it-yourself concept is already taking place in Collegiate’s upper school Theatrical Production course.

“Throughout the previous two years, I have observed that the best projects are always the ones where the student was passionate about the outcome,” Hoyle said.  “The students are always most passionate about projects that they conceive themselves.”

Our students were introduced to the maker movement with the development of their Rube Goldberg machines this past February.

This unique concept of creating a complex machine to perform a simple task was extremely successful at Collegiate. It allowed six different teams to work together over six weeks to build their machines for presentation in front of their peers, teachers, staff and a panel of guest judges.

“The entire [Rube Goldberg] project was fascinating to watch as each team rose to the occasion and worked tirelessly on their machines,” Hoyle said. “What was truly wonderful was that they were teaching themselves techniques and skills in the exact moment that they needed them. They look ownership over their education.”

The makerspace proposal will be presented at our upcoming Annual Auction on Saturday, May 7, at 6 p.m. in the Watt-Baker and Middle School Gymnasium. The auction is Collegiate’s largest annual fundraiser, providing critical support to our Annual Fund and affects almost every aspect of our students’ education.  

“One and a half years ago, through the generosity of donors, Norfolk Collegiate was able to purchase three 3-D printers and set them up in each division.  I was fortunate enough to be charged with the management of the upper school 3-D printer,” said Hoyle. “In these past 18 months, we have designed and printed many things with these printers, including quarter inch scale models for set design, props for productions, robots and replicas of Norfolk Collegiate buildings, rings, cell phone cases and much more.  We have also employed micro controllers and coding through some of our theatrical productions at the school.  It has been a blast incorporating all of these exciting technologies and our students have embraced the opportunities that these machines afford us in the pursuit of knowledge and creative expression.”

During the Fund-an-Item portion of the auction, participants will watch a brief video about the makerspace proposal and be presented with information about this idea.

“The Fund-an-Item is a reverse auction,” said Kate Pringle, Annual Fund and special events manager. “Our auctioneer will start by asking our audience to contribute at the $2,500 level, and then work down to gifts of $50. Our goal is for every single person to raise their hand and contribute at some level.  If a community member would like to contribute to this but is unable to attend the auction, they can contact the development office prior to the auction or after the auction to make their contribution.”

“By funding these idea workshops we’re setting up our students to be on the forefront of new and exciting opportunities and careers,” said Hoyle. “The U.S Department of Labor has estimated that 65 percent of today’s students will be employed in jobs that don’t exist yet. These future jobs will be in programming, coding, engineering and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines that are an inherent part of maker education.”

To learn more about our Annual Auction or to give to our Annual Fund, visit