Nebraska Public Power District’s MakerSpace inspires teachers

The MakeIt: Do lab shows teachers how to create circuitry. This station was part of NPPD's MakerSpace at NETA in April.

The MakeIt: Do lab shows teachers how to create circuitry. This station was part of NPPD's MakerSpace at NETA in April.

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The MakeIt: Do lab shows teachers how to create circuitry. This station was part of NPPD's MakerSpace at NETA in April.
The MakeIt: Do lab shows teachers how to create circuitry. This station was part of NPPD’s MakerSpace at NETA in April.

Jay Kueker’s eyes glared at the screen, and said in a huff, “it won’t even let me delete the object.”

He sat down in the makeshift cubicle 20 minutes prior, and had made some steady process on his task. On the computer screen was a program designed for a 3D printer, which Keuker had troubles with. He spent another 10 minutes trying to get the program to do what he wanted.

Finally, he decided to start over.

Keuker was participating in the Nebraska Education Technology Association’s (NETA) Maker Space area, sponsored by Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD). Maker Space was an event in which teachers could sit down and play with different tasks that dealt with science.

“The idea of a makerspace is to give people an idea, to test their own ideas, and build their own materials,” Chad Johnson, NPPD’s Educational Specialist, said, “[It’s a] little more of an open learning process as opposed to ‘here’s a project, do the project.’”

NETA’s Maker Space area was in the ballroom of the CenturyLink Center of Omaha. Maker Space looked more like a science fair, with two rows of cubicles, provided by NPPD, hosting different areas of science, and various tables dedicated to projects showcased by students from schools that get power from NPPD.

Johnson explained that the purpose of Maker Space was to “encourage the teachers to be able to give more opportunities to kids to explore.”

“We want [teachers] to get excited about what they can do in their classroom that’s more innovative,” Johnson said.

Jeanne Schieffer, NPPD’s Corporate Communications and Public Relations Manager, spoke of the traveling rows of cubicles, acting as a tech lab for schools in cities served by NPPD.

“Schools that are in our service territories can ask for this mobile lab,” Schieffer said. “Then teachers can work with the students and play with it for two weeks.”

NPPD takes the tech lab to schools that get power from them. Because of this, Bellevue Public Schools can’t have access to the tech lab.

However, Schieffer said that the reason NPPD provided the cubicles was to introduce “the concept of the mobile lab to teachers” at the NETA conference. And it worked. Two Springs elementary teacher Sharae Geldes said her intent on going to NETA this year was for Maker Space.

“Our kids use a lot of coding but they usually do it on the computer with an image but they don’t usually get to apply it to something else,” Geldes said. “I’m definitely going to be taking some of that and using it in my classroom.”

Rae Rangel
Managing Editor