Designing a Makerspace to Support Innovation in Economic Diversity Opportunities

Farmington, New Mexico

Featured image for the project, Designing a Makerspace to Support Innovation in Economic Diversity Opportunities

Photo Courtesy of Luke Renner


San Juan College was established in Farmington, New Mexico in 1956 to serve a county service area larger than the state of Connecticut. The school is a majority minority institution with a 30% Native American (including the Navajo, Southern Ute, Apache and Ute Mountain Ute tribes) and 17% Hispanic student population. Current enrollment is approximately 12,000 students per year. San Juan College is first in the nation for granting certificates less than 1 year and second in the nation for granting associate degrees to Native American students. They’ve seen a 143% increase in the number of graduates over the last 5 years.


In 2016, Farmington, New Mexico was identified by USA Today as the #1 fastest shrinking city in the United States, with a population growth (2010-2015) of -8.76%. This number is tied to fewer economic opportunities in the area, due in large part to a weak job market and declining income levels as a result of an economy largely dependent on declining fossil fuel industries.


To counteract this trend – and provide greater opportunities for its students and the surrounding community – San Juan College is partnering with the Drexel University School of Engineering, Architectural Engineering Department to create a makerspace, a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech to no tech tools, on campus.  The makerspace will help support economic diversification, self-employment and trade skill development, in part by looking at new ways to efficiently manage and use natural resources; improve the efficient use of energy; and many new innovative and creative ways to improve the living conditions of the community by improving their economic well-being.


TEX has been asked to assist San Juan College in the development of the criteria for the maker space, and to work with the students as the design is being developed.  While the makerspace will be broad in application, San Juan College wants its design to be energy efficient, and to incorporate sustainable principals to the most extent possible.  In addition, the ideas of being sustainable and energy efficient should be incorporated into the design of the makerspace to give users the opportunity to participate in an area that is not only a great area for future growth and opportunity, but beneficial to the needs of the local communities.


The community lead for the project will be Luke Renner, San Juan College Digital Media and Design instructor. Mr. Renner will be the lead for San Juan College to work with TEX to develop the criteria for the makerspace, incorporating input from the school of Math, Science, and Engineering, energy, local community, and others as appropriate.  He will also be the lead for the development of the design with Drexel University.  Professor Renner will work with Drexel University and TEX to provide an opportunity for his students to participate in the design of the makerspace with Drexel University, with the assistance of TEX, for student input into the design.

Scientist Wanted

San Juan College is seeking a scientific partner who can support this project in an advisory role. This individual would consider the school’s curriculum, as well as industry needs and trends, to provide feedback and advice to the students and faculty designing the makerspace as well as area schools and community members that will use the space. They will help the project team think through equipment needs and how to design the Makerspace to make it most appropriate and effective in meeting the project’s goals and the multi-use vision of San Juan College’s makerspace, as described in the collaboration section of this document.


The scientist will also be asked to support San Juan College faculty and students in their engagement with counterparts at Drexel and roll-out of the project by acting as a resource and as-needed advisor to answer questions and share expertise during the project. This support should extend from the makerspace design phase through to assembly.


TEX asks all scientific partners to work with the community to help define a project with concrete local impact that they can contribute to as pro-bono volunteers and collaborators.  This work can also position the scientists and communities to seek additional funding, together, for the next stage if desired.


Timeline and Outcome

A scientific lead will guide and amplify the science-focus for the development of the makerspace with a view toward practical, real-world applications. The scientist will assist in the development of the sustainable and energy efficient aspects of the design, as well the incorporation of these focus areas into training/educational aspects of the makerspace itself. 


A scientific lead will ideally commence collaborating with the San Juan-Drexel teams by the time the final makerspace criteria is completed in June 2017. It is expected that this scientist will commit from June through December 2017 (6 months) when the design draft is complete.


The successful design and completion of a multi-use makerspace on the San Juan College campus will provide an opportunity for students and surrounding community members to access the tools and resources needed to support innovative and entrepreneurial ventures. It will help students prepare for careers in technological fields, while building a skilled and creative workforce within the Farmington, NM community.


Desired Skills and Expertise

  • Knowledgeable with principals and practical applications of sustainability and energy efficiency
  • Experience or familiarity with makerspace tools
  • Knowledge and respect for indigenous cultures and worldviews
  • Ability to operate in an environment where science may not be the only concern
  • Strong listening and collaboration skills
  • Experience and/or desire to participate in student education, outreach and engagement
  • Willingness to connect science to local concerns
  • Public speaking skills
  • Competent and open to new ideas
  • Relaxed, easy going personality with a good sense of humor
  • Local expertise is preferred, but remote assistance is welcome if no local expertise is available

Collaborating Organization(s)

The EPA’s College Underserved Community Partnership Program (CUPP), has assisted the efforts of San Juan College in the development of this makerspace by helping to establish a partnership between San Juan College and Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA.  San Juan College will develop the criteria to be used in the development of the design for the maker space.  The criteria will be discussed and agreed to by both schools.  Drexel University will engage a senior class as the design group, a group composed of architectural students, engineers, and other academic areas as needed to develop the maker space design for San Juan College.  Digital media students from San Juan will be engaged in the project as active partners to obtain both the experience and the credit for their participation.  Drexel University has volunteered to develop the design on a voluntary basis.