The Nevada County campus of Sierra College is partnering with the Curious Forge community makerspace. Located in Nevada City, the Curious Forge is a 20,000+ sq. ft. makerspace with over $100,000 in equipment and a community of builders, tinkerers, artists and professionals who love to make. The space describes itself as an “artistic, technical and industrial playground.”
Educational makerspaces enable students to gain useful skills and feel pride in creating projects that they made themselves. Their work is tangible evidence that what they are learning in college can serve them personally and professionally.
Sierra College students can apply for maker scholarships which give them a discounted student rate of $25 per month compared to the regular member price of $75. The three month scholarship also includes training so the student can be certified on one type of maker tool, explained Vicki Day, Mathematics faculty member. “Students have been certified in jewelry making, welding and wood turning at Curious Forge,” said Day.
Day runs the campus community garden and hopes that student makers will contribute. “A student who becomes certified in welding could create metal art for the garden,” said Day.
The garden and the makerspace also provide hands-on learning opportunities for high school students. “The garden needed a compost system and three calculus students, enrolled in the Ghidotti Early College High School, received makerspace scholarships to develop a solar powered compost bin,” said Day. “The students became certified to use the Curious Forge welding equipment and welded the frame for the compost bin. They were challenged to design the bin, figure out the best motor and properly size the battery system to the solar panels.”
The high school students enroll in Sierra College classes as the result of a partnership between the Nevada Joint Union High School District and the college. Ghidotti Early College High School serves historically disadvantaged students, low-income students, first generation college students, English language learners and other high school students for whom a smooth transition into postsecondary education can be challenging.
The Nevada County Council of the Sierra College Foundation paid for the materials that the students used to build the solar powered compost bin as well as supports faulty in getting trained to use maker equipment at Curious Forge.
The campus garden inspires other applied learning experiences for Sierra College students. For instance, Math E – Practical Mathematics students are sent into the garden to measure planting beds and calculate the volume of soil needed to fill them, according to Day. “Physically engaging in their own learning is a very powerful experience for students, whether it is in the garden or in the makerspace,” said Day. “Educational makerspaces enable students to gain useful skills and feel pride in creating projects that they made themselves. Their work is tangible evidence that what they are learning in college can serve them personally and professionally.”