Fisher, a former middle school teacher who came to UNCG in 2007, oversees the TRC’s new makerspace, which debuts Homecoming weekend. The makerspace — complete with a 3D printer, an ‘egg bot’ that prints on spherical surfaces, a robot that replicates your paintings and MaKey MaKey touchpad kits that can turn everyday objects like bananas into wired devices — is on the third floor in the Education building.

The space is known as the SELF Design Studio, short for Student Educator Learning Factory. Beyond the acronym, the name was given by the Sarah Smith Self Foundation in honor of Smith Self and his daughter, Rebekah.

Fisher says makerspaces like the SELF studio take the fear out of learning new technologies and exploring new ways to teach.

“Students and teachers can jump into technologies without fear of failure and without being daunted,” he says. “It takes that fear out of creating a project and makes it accessible and not threatening. It’s fun.”

Sixth-grader Seth Gleason tweaks his battery-operated device

The SELF studio and other makerspaces mark a comeback of old-fashioned manufacturing with a new twist, he says. They also spur creativity, practical inventions, and hands-on learning. “What do you want to make? What is important to you? How can these tools make your life better?”

And, Fisher adds, the studio can help teachers and faculty diversify their teaching methods. “This can apply to any subject. English. Math. Reading.”

Several education faculty submitted project ideas for the makerspace. Dr. Claudia Pagliaro’s project, Making MY Space, is one of five that are federally funded for 2014-15 through UNCG’s Project Enrich.

Dr. Claudia Pagliaro, a professor in UNCG’s Specialized Education Services, works with sixth-grader Emma Bowman in the School of Education’s new makerspace.

Making MY Space teams Pagliaro, a professor in UNCG’s Specialized Education Services, with teachers in two Guilford County schools, Kiser Middle and Grimsley High, that offer specialized services for deaf and hard of hearing students.

About 15 students in the Kiser and Grimsley programs are taking part in Making MY Space, which culminates during the Spring 2015 semester with their own designs for deaf-friendly homes. They will build models based on their designs, using materials and techniques of their choice.

“We’re pulling together all kinds of people from across the university as well as the community,” Pagliaro says. “We want to make this a community project.”

Faculty and students from Professions in Deafness programs within Specialized Education Services — deaf education teacher preparation, sign language interpreting and advocacy — are involved. Interior Architecture students and faculty will share their design expertise.

Joane Mapas, a UNCG alumna who teaches deaf and hard of hearing students at Kiser, says more than 90 students in the Guilford County Schools get specialized instruction from a deaf education teacher. More than 130 students in the school system are identified as deaf or hearing impaired.

The regular curriculum already had the students working on blue prints for deaf-friendly bedrooms, Mapas says. So why not just scale it up a bit?

“Why not come here to the makerspace and have the kids make the blueprints into a deaf-friendly house?” she says. “Here there is real application right away, in the moment.”

Mapas’ students don’t realize they are learning as they build basic electrical circuits.

“I like doing the electricity stuff and being hands on and just doing,” says Seth Gleason, a sixth-grader at Kiser.

Hector Hernanadez, also a sixth-grader at Kiser, agrees. “I like how you get to do stuff. School work is paperwork and reading, and here it’s hands on.”

Mapas says her students are eager to visit the makerspace, always asking, “Are we going to college today?”

Pagliaro nods in agreement. “At our last meeting they were really fired up.”

Pagliaro’s project is funded by the U.S. Department of Education through UNCG’s Project Enrich. A new five-year, $7.7 million grant from the Department of Education will allow UNCG to partner with area schools to help teachers integrate technology most effectively in the classroom. As part of that grant, selected schools will receive their own makerspaces. <Read more about that project, Transforming Teaching Through Technology.> 

Come out and see the new SELF Design Studio!

It officially debuts during Homecoming with two special events:

  • TRC Open House – Friday, Oct. 31   
    • 1 p.m.-3 p.m., TRC & makerspace areas, 3rd floor, School of Education Building
    • Open to all UNCG faculty, staff, and friends of SOE.
    • Event website:
  • TRC Community Day – Saturday, Nov. 1
    • (Part of the UNCG Homecoming Children’s Festival activities)
    • Open to alumni, community members and friends of the School of Education.
    • 4-7 p.m., TRC & makerspace areas, 3rd floor, School of Education Building.
    • Event website:


Story by Michelle Hines, UNCG University Relations
Reposted from UNCG News and Features