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Category “makerspace”

The Educational Makerspaces Interview Series

I recently completed a series of four podcast interviews with folks from higher ed, K-12, and libraries who all run makerspaces and are involved in the educational advancement of making. You can check out all four episodes on This Should Work*, but here they are in sequence:

Aaron Hoover, Olin College

Terry Steinbach and Betty Shanahan, DePaul University

Jeff Solin, Lane Tech

Sasha Neri, Harold Washington Library


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

TSW* 21 – Sasha Neri

This Should Work* has crossed the 20 episodes mark with this fun interview: Sasha Neri of Harold Washington Library. Check it out!

Sasha Neri runs the Harold Washington Library Maker Lab in the Loop of Chicago, Illinois and runs Chicago’s yearly Maker Summit. This is the fourth and final part of our educational makerspaces series, and I’m happy to have Sasha on to talk about how makerspaces work in a library setting, and the benefits they have for the broader community of patrons that libraries serve.


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Idea Realization Lab May Report

Big thanks to our (now ex-) student worker Fiona Baenziger for building this report (and congrats on graduating!).

Our numbers continue a trend toward growth. Excited to see where they go next year!


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Setting Goals

Setting our yearly goals for the Idea Realization Lab and Idea Realization Lab 2 for AY 19/20.


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

New Episode of TSW* with Jeff Solin of Lane Tech!

Jeff Solin is an educator, makerspace administrator, and all around good-guy at Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago. This is the third part in This Should Work’s* series on educational makerspaces, and I’m really grateful that Jeff joined the podcast to talk about the way he thinks about educating students in makerspaces and fostering a supportive educational makerspace environment.


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

IRL2 Building Up, pt. 3 (and Forge Network)

One of the problems I identified early on in the process of developing IRL2 is the abundance of siloed “making spaces” around the DePaul campus. Now that we have the IRL (in our Loop campus) and IRL2 (in our Lincoln Park campus), why not use those two spaces as hubs to network these additional spaces together and open access to all students?

Thus, the idea of the Forge Network at DePaul was developed. Still in its early planning phases, and quite far from gaining widespread approval, the Forge Network aims to connect “students, faculty, and staff with fabrication and making resources across the University through a networked system to increase accessibility, improve return on investment, and to facilitate cross-disciplinary collaboration.”

The ultimate goal is that, as an incoming DePaul student, one will receive their student ID and, thus, a passport to multiple spaces on campus where you can make things and gain exposure to multi-disciplinary learning. From greenhouses, to physics labs, to printing facilities, students from across Depaul will have the opportunity to share and learn from each other, and work on ideas together. This may seem like a no-brainer, but in a world where both learning and professions have become highly specialized, it is a rather novel concept to work across disciplines (I have seen this in much of my professional practice work outside of DePaul as well).

Not to mention we’re doing this at a liberal arts institution!

Right now the Forge Network is in its infancy, and we’re still unsure what direction it will take. In the coming months, I hope to provide a fourth update to this series where we go more in-depth to what that plan looks like, and how we came up with a framework to develop this at DePaul. In the meantime (and if you’re looking for what a network like this could look like once implemented), I’d check out MIT’s Project Manus, one of the inspirations for our project at DePaul.


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

IRL In Review

This year our student workers at the IRL came up with the great idea of putting together a “year in review” book for the space. As part of that, they asked me to write a kind of forward to introduce the book and reflect on where we’ve come from and where we’re going. I enjoyed writing this so much that I wanted to share it here. Special thanks to my pal Dave Wolinsky for helping me edit.


Last spring the Idea Realization Lab emerged into DePaul’s consciousness with a student-led mission to engender exploration, tinkering, and a community service-oriented tradition. Through countless stories of imagination and inventiveness, we’ve built a community where all are welcome to learn how to commune through materials, tools, and each other’s ideas in the spaces between.

Today we renew our dedication to that mission and the promise that it has for DePaul. We challenge ourselves to hold a higher standard for makerspaces: one where we all have the access and support to tap into our latent creative potential. To that end, I am incredibly proud of our student employees, members, and our community partners who embody this spirit of seeking a new way forward together. A way where thinking and making are tied together, and where we pursue this endeavor with earnestness and playfulness.

Let’s celebrate this year.

The Idea Realization Lab now averages over 1,000 visits per month. Our student workers have hosted nearly 200 community events since opening. We have supported projects ranging from robotics to alternative game controllers. The list continues to grow. On the Internet, one student comment — which I think encapsulates our success well — states that “discovering this lab has led to finding an area that has fellow creatives [with] a strong desire to learn, test out ideas and grow together.” That last part is critical.

Looking forward, our continued success has given us the opportunity to grow together toward new horizons. Beginning in fall 2019, the IRL2 (or IIRL) will open on DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus. Though the IRL and IIRL will have their own differences, both will have the same mission, and will amplify each other’s successes. I look forward to seeing what our Lincoln Park community contributes to this second space, and how we can use our dual-campus presence to strengthen the bonds between students, faculty, and staff across departments and colleges.

The Idea Realization Lab name is a clever play on the popular abbreviation “IRL” (in real life) and also a play on words indicating that here, in our space, your dreams can become reality. These two ideas are necessarily bonded together in spirit. “Creative practice doesn’t really arise from some unseen, divine inspiration that strikes an artist [..] rather, art emerges from a negotiation between a creator, an initial vision or context, and a set of material limitations that help lead the idea from abstraction to concreteness,” the game designer and philosopher Ian Bogost writes. The individual, the idea, and the material are one, and ideas become reality when we commune between these spaces.

Let’s see what new ideas become a reality as we grow together and explore – negotiate – the unknown spaces between.

Jay Margalus


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

IRL and Thotcon in Newsline

Here’s a great writeup by Elizabeth Clements on the Thotcon + IRL/DePaul partnership and how it went for this year’s badge project. Love it!


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

TSW* Ep. 19 – Makerspaces at DePaul with Terry Steinbach and Betty Shanahan


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

DePaul Student? Apply to work at the IRL and IIRL

We’re hiring for all positions at the IRL and IRL2 on (respectively) the Loop and Lincoln Park campuses. If you’re a DePaul University student who has interest in exploring making and tinkering, and sharing that joy with others, check out our hiring page here.


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus