Student Drives Makerspace Research

Author: Steve Hunter, Mechatronics Department Chair Emeritus, and Team Leader for CCC Maker Sierra College Makerspaces

To gather input from students and faculty who are members of Hacker Lab powered by Sierra College, students volunteering on the CCC Maker implementation planning team developed a survey tool. The goal was to gather insights that could be incorporated in the Sierra College system-wide makerspace plan covering three campuses in Rocklin, Grass Valley and Tahoe Truckee.

The research project was led by Sebastian Romanet, Mechatronics major, who teaches virtual reality classes at the makerspace. “What motivates me to be on the CCC Maker Team is the large amount of support I’ve personally seen and experienced from Sierra College, as well as the fact that Hacker Lab has introduced me to new people and opportunities for me to improve myself,” said Romanet.

“I wanted to lead the research effort to ensure that the student voice was heard by faculty and the appropriate college bodies; allowing me to do my part in ensuring that the same opportunity that was here for me is here for many more students to come. Public/private relationships between colleges and makerspaces are an incredible opportunity, and I want to make sure that the students who need them and want to take advantage of them have access to the same networking and learning opportunities that I have had.”

Sierra College was one of the first community colleges in the country to establish a private/public partnership with a community makerspace and together they launched a second Hacker Lab in Rocklin, CA. Hacker Lab just moved to a new location in Rocklin and Sierra College is working on two other public/private partnerships — Curious Forge in Grass Valley and Truckee Roundhouse in Truckee. Results from the survey will guide decisions on equipment, classes, services and building community.

Romanet worked with other CCC Maker planning team members to draft the questions and then he put the surveys into a Google Drive folder so that the group could comment and participate in reiterations. He arranged for three other Sierra College students who are members of the planning team to review the drafts. With Romanet, these students are actively involved in every aspect of the public makerspace and help to drive the culture of the space. They are leaders in the makerspace community, taking responsibility for setting up work areas in the new location, teaching classes at the makerspace and mentoring others.


Both the college and Hacker Lab sent the survey out to faculty. Hacker Lab sent out the survey to student members and actively encouraged participation when they saw students in the makerspace. Romanet presented preliminary results at a team planning meeting so people who were working on different aspects of the implementation plan could incorporate the ideas into their work.

Student respondents repeatedly mentioned the connections with friendly people as what they liked best and indicated that they enjoyed the electronics and 3D printing areas the most. The highest ranking improvement was a request for a job board and opportunities to meet with employers. Faculty members described “connections with creative people,” as well as “quick classes” as what they liked best. For improvements, several faculty members asked for enclosed classroom space. One suggestion was to offer open houses to attract more Sierra College faculty which reinforced the planning team efforts to host a Maker Night.