MAKER DAYS for kids:
Learnings from a Pop-up Makerspace
Maria Grandl1[0000-0002-4869-9725], Martin Ebner1 [0000-0001-5789-5296],
Sandra Schön2[0000-0003-0267-5215] and Benedikt Brünner1
1 Graz University of Technology, Münzgrabenstraße 36/1, 8010 Graz
2 BIMS gem. e.V., Fallbacherstr. 2a, D-83435 Bad Reichenhall
Abstract. Makerspaces exist in different forms with different target groups and
goals. Dedicated makerspaces are often organized as communities of practise.
They provide space, devices, tools and materials for (digital) (re)production to
support (social) innovation and to democratize STEAM education. The potential of
makerspaces as authentic learning environments to teach 21st century skills is one
reason why pop-up makerspaces are especially designed for children and teenag-
ers, with a great focus on the tools and activities offered. The MAKER DAYS for
kids are one example of a temporary makerspace for more than 100 participants
with an open approach to encourage (especially female) participants to pursue a ca-
reer in STEAM domains. Based on the gathered data of the last MAKER DAYS in
2018 and 2019 at Graz University of Technology, this publication focuses on the
challenges in the design of maker activities in pop-up makerspaces and comments
on the changes and improvements that were/are applied to the last/upcoming event.
Keywords: Maker Movement, Maker Education, Maker Space, Pop-Up Maker
Space, STEAM education, Computer Science Education, Design Education
In the face of current ecological, economic and social challenges, there is a “need
to encourage (young) learners to develop skills for collaboration, creativity, problem
solving, creative computational thinking and critical thinking”, described with the
terms 21st century skills/competencies.   Makerspaces are thought to meet these
requirements, as the maker movement took roots in various learning contexts that are
linked to more authentic learning experiences including the use of new technologies.
Makerspaces exist in different forms. The MAKER DAYS implement a temporary
makerspace. With 110 participants (206 daily visits) in 2018 and 132 participants
(239 daily visits) in 2019, there is a solid data basis for investigations in the role of
pop-up makerspaces to help children and teenagers, especially girls, “become more
fluent and expressive with new innovative technologies as well as traditional tools”.
 The contribution of this work is to summarize the most important organizational
and didactical issues in the context of a pop-up makerspace with an open approach.
Draft - ﬁnally published in: Grandl M., Ebner M., Schön S., Brünner B. (2021) MAKER DAYS for
Kids: Learnings from a Pop-up Makerspace. In: Lepuschitz W., Merdan M., Koppensteiner G.,
Balogh R., Obdržálek D. (eds) Robotics in Education. RiE 2020. Advances in Intelligent Systems
and Computing, vol 1316. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-67411-3_33
2 About the Event
As described in the publication Setup of a Temporary Makerspace for Children at
University , the MAKER DAYS for kids took place in August 2018 and 2019 at
Graz University of Technology. The pop-up makerspace was open for four days.
Children and teenagers between the ages of 10 and 14 had to register for the event. In
2019, the pop-up-makerspace was made up of four rooms (about 400 m2) with differ-
ent workshop areas focusing mainly on coding, physical computing, robotics, electri-
cal engineering, digital fabrication, crafts and arts.
3 Research approach and Data Collection
An action-based research approach is used for the evaluation and adaption of the
MAKER DAYS, with pre and post questionnaires (including quantitative and qualita-
tive questions), observations, field notes and qualitative interviews. The data is col-
lected and analysed in a systematic way to allow a critical reflection based on the
initial research problem. The results are considered in the planning and implementa-
tion of the subsequent event, which marks the start of a new research cycle. 
For the MAKER DAYS in 2018 and 2019 an innovative evaluation concept was
applied to document the activities of a single participant in the makerspace. In 2019,
each participant got an empty sticker card with their name and an ID on it. The ID
was consequently used to match the questionnaires, (digital) results, photos and vide-
os of the results, field notes and post-event reflections. In 2019, extensive interviews
with the tutors were conducted after the event. The interviews were analysed and
contributed much to the findings that are presented in this publication.
4 Lessons Learned from the MAKER DAYS Events
4.1 How to achieve a Balanced Gender Ratio
One goal of the MAKER DAYS is to achieve a gender balance on each day. In 2018,
more than twice as many boys than girls visited the MAKER DAYS on the first two
days. One reason for this was, that we only had limited time to promote the MAKER
DAYS. Consequently, registrations were handled according to the first come – first
served principle. As addressed in , (maker) events, where registration is required,
may face the problem of a lower girls’ participation, as “the participation of boys in
technology-related offers is rather supported by (grand)parents”.
In 2019, the promotion of the event already started in February. All registrations
were collected until May. At this time, there were more male than female registrants.
Therefore, only some of the registrations were confirmed in May and registration was
left open until a balanced gender ratio was finally achieved.
4.2 Breaking the ice
After visiting the registration desk in the morning, the new participants were guided
through the makerspace by a (peer) tutor. After the tour, participants were asked to fill
out a questionnaire and to choose an activity to start with. Some of the participants,
especially those who came alone, without a friend or sibling, felt intimidated or were
not familiar with that kind of self-directed learning. Therefore it is good to have a
simple and attractive activity that can be offered. In 2019, we prepared a folded invi-
tation card (for (grand)parents, friends) for the closing event that took place on Satur-
day. The participants were supposed to add an LED, a coin cell and copper band to
the card. The LED should light up as soon as the card is closed. The card also provid-
ed some hints on where to place the components.
4.3 Announcement of Activities/Workshops
All activities during the MAKER DAYS were announced in form of printed work-
shop cards that were filled out by the tutors and put on a board. The workshop card
included the title, the name of the tutor, the time, the workshop starts, the name of the
workshop area, a short description of the content and the maximum number of partic-
ipants. But the workshop cards did not seem to help them decide.
For some workshops or, more general, activities it was hard to define a starting
time, as they were “ongoing”. For other workshops, it was necessary to schedule per-
sonal “time slots”, so that everyone interested had the chance to take part. On the
other hand, some tutors were searching for more participants and had to cancel some
of the workshops after repeated efforts. Given the diversity and dynamic of situations,
it is difficult to announce activities with a “static” card. As well as that, the handwrit-
ing on the workshop card was quite unreadable in some cases. Moreover, with one
sentence or a few words, children may not understand what the workshop is about.
4.4 Sticker Card
For the MAKER DAYS 2019, a sticker card was introduced. The idea was to hand
out the corresponding sticker after a participant had spent a certain amount of time on
a specific activity or created a (valuable) product. The main goal of the sticker card
was to investigate, whether the collection of stickers has a positive and/or negative
influence on the participants’ motivation and attitude towards learning. Many tutors
were sceptical about the sticker card at first, but the interviews revealed that the stick-
er card had more positive than negative effects. The younger the participant, the more
important was the collection of stickers. Younger participants were more likely to ask
the tutor for a sticker and talked about their sticker card with their peers. For older
participants, the sticker card did not play an important role.
4.5 The importance of a structured experience
In their publication, Davidson and Price  describe the characteristics of „experien-
tial learning activities“ that contribute to the acquisition of 21st century competencies.
Accordingly, “progress happens over bumpy roads, not on super highways”. This
means, that (young) learners need to get involved in ill-defined problem solving with
multiple iterations. In the context of the MAKER DAYS, we must pave the way for
this kind self-directed learning, creating a learning environment, where children use
new technologies and/or traditional tools to create a (digital) product and where (peer)
tutors facilitate the process of making. Davidson and Price  run a series of maker
events and workshops with more than 100 participants of different ages and educa-
tional backgrounds. They found out, “that not all novice makers needed structured
design, but without some structured experience to start with, some participants might
never engage in maker activities”. This is also true for activities in the course of the
MAKER DAYS. It is important to find a simple introductory example or activity
from which young learners can imply whether they want to proceed with a more pur-
poseful activity/social innovation in this area or not. 
4.6 Social innovation and (Peer) Feedback
“Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement” and
to help young learners to engage in iterative, creative and collaborative activities,
there is a need to provide them with appropriate (peer) feedback.  Talking about
maker activity design, it is important that the activity does not only address a specific
knowledge or skill set from the STEAM domain or the usage of key technologies or
popular maker tools. No less important is to ask for its social relevance and how the
activity or project can possibly contribute to common good. For the MAKER DAYS,
participants had the chance to contribute to the development and creation of the so -
called make.city – an idea of a place, where people like to live (in the future). With
tape, a square of 9 m2 was marked on the floor. At the beginning of each day, partici-
pants discussed with a tutor, which buildings and facilities the city needs. As well as
that, the discussion was based on a daily theme: The participants were asked, how
they wanted to live, learn, play and move. The tutor wrote the participant’s ideas on
single notepads and put them on a poster. Then the participants, which were involved
in the discussion, were asked to rate each idea by putting a sticky dot on the corre-
sponding notepad. This way, the participants agreed on certain ideas to be put into
action. Lego® bricks in various designs were used as main construction material, but
the participants could use the materials and tools of all the other workshop areas too.
But there was a problem with this approach. The participants, who came to the Lego®
construction area, were asked to look at the approved ideas on the poster. In some
cases, the idea was accepted, but in other cases, they wanted to work on their very
own ideas. In both cases, they started building immediately. For the age group (10-14
years), Lego® is still an attractive toy and it was nearly impossible for the tutor to
interfere in the process of making to help the participants reflect on what they were
doing or planning to do. This often led to arbitrary buildings with no meaningful story
behind it. In 2019, a “new” feedback process was introduced to better support critical
thinking and collaboration. As part of the Horizon 2020 project DOIT (Entrepreneur-
ial skills for young social innovators in an open digital world) a feedback cube was
developed.  The cube has five questions on it: “What do you like?”, “What can be
improved?”, “What would you do differently?”, “How does the idea contribute to the
solution of the problem?” and “Is there something, you don’t understand?” The cube
can be used in a setting, where young learners are supposed to comment on the ideas
or prototypes of their colleagues. For the purpose of the make.city, the questions were
adapted and referred to the daily theme of the MAKER DAYS. The feedback cube
was only applied in the context of the make.city, but also other tutors of different
workshop areas stated, that they would like to have an instrument to make an idea
more valuable – for the participant, for society and for content understanding.
4.7 The „Keychain Syndrome“
Due to a cooperation with the local FabLab, it was possible to set up a small digital
fabrication lab, called the modeling corner, with one 3D printer and one vinyl cutter.
The tutor, who was responsible for 3D printing in the first year, came up with the idea
of creating personalized keychains to introduce the participants to the 3D modeling
software Tinkercad. The participants felt excited about their simple but attractive
product and wanted to create even more of that kind. But in fact, the modeling corner
became a keychain factory and participants would not engage in creating more com-
plex constructions with multiple iterations. Blikstein  used the term “keychain
syndrome” to describe a vicious circle: “First, the equipment is capable of easily
generating aesthetically attractive objects and products. Second, this generates an
incentive system in which there is a disproportionate payoff in staying a ‘local mini-
mum’ where the projects are very simple but at the same time very admired by exter-
nal observers. In 2019, there were clearly defined rules for 3D printing. It was only
possible to create 3D objects to be included in the make.city, taking account of the
daily theme. For the MAKER DAYS 2020, we would also like to apply the feedback
process, described in 4.6, to the 3D modeling/printing workshops.
4.8 Coding and Robotics in different contexts
Five different workshop areas focused on programming activities: Textile Studio (cre-
ating an embroidery design), hAPPy-Lab (creating an app/game directly on the
smartphone), Smart Lab (combining micro-controllers with handicraft), Robo World
(solving tasks with Ozobot, Thymio and mBot), Codegarden (selected coding tutori-
als and free programming). The numbers of female and male participants show that it
is important to provide various approaches to coding and robotics and to consider the
presence of female tutors in this context. Activities in the Codegarden were less at-
tractive to girls (18 girls : 42 boys). But more girls than boys created an embroidery
pattern with the app Pocket Code (18 : 6), developed an app on the smartphone
(42:35) and created a handicraft project with a built-in microcontroller (17 : 13).
The goal of the hAPPy-lab was to introduce participants to the basic concepts of
coding by using the app Pocket Code. All in all, the participants were supported by
four female tutors in the hAPPy-lab, which might have contributed to the high partic-
ipation of girls in this activity. 
To sum up, the idea of a pop-up-makerspace for more than 60 participants per day
that contributes to a positive attitude towards STEAM and triggers a self-directed
development of 21st century competencies, sound easier than it is – starting with some
organisational details, such as the registration process to ensure a gender balance or
the use of an ID to keep track of the participants’ activities within the makerspace.
The following recommendations can be made: (1) Prepare a simple and attractive
activity to start with. (2) Think of a dynamic system to announce activities in an open
learning and teaching setting. (3) Think of actions to motivate participants to visit
various workshop areas and try out new things. (4) Prepare a basic task for each
workshop areas from which young learners can imply whether they want to proceed
or not. (5) Think of an (feedback) instrument to make an idea more valuable. (6) Be
aware of the “keychain syndrome”. (7) Think of different approaches to coding and
robotics to ensure that girls engage in coding activities.
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MAKER DAYS for kids
Learnings from a Pop-up Makerspace
Maria Grandl, Martin Ebner, Sandra Schön, Benedikt Brünner
Graz University of Technology
Floor plan of the MAKER DAYS 2019.
The floor plan was placed in the foyer to provide an overview of the workshop areas,
distributed in four rooms on an area of 400 m2.
1 Define a registration process
to ensure a gender balance.
2018: first come –fir st served 2019: reg istration procedure
to ensure gen der balance
Monday Tuesday Thursday Friday Monday Tuesday Thursd ay Friday
55 52 47 52 58 57 65 59
13 42 12 40 22 25 23 29 26 32 25 32 30 35 28 31
24% 76% 23% 77% 47% 53% 44% 56% 45% 55% 44% 56% 46% 54% 47% 53%
11.15 11.21 11.47 11.56 11.50 11.67 11.80 11.83
2 Prepare a simple and attractive activity to start with.
Making an invitation card for the closing event
A comparison of the number and age of participants
at the MAKER DAYS for kids in 2018 and 2019
3 Think of a dynamic system to announce activities in
an open learning and teaching setting.
4 Think of actions to motivate participants to visit
various workshop areas and try out new things.
Sticker Card: Collecting stickers for different activties
5 Prepare a basic task for each workshop
area from which young learners can imply
whether they want to proceed or not.
6 Think of an (feedback) instrument to make
an idea more valuable.
7 Be aware of the „Keychain Syndrome“.
8 Think of different approaches to coding and robotics to
ensure that girls engage in coding activities.
Submission for the 11th International Conference on Robotics in Education, 2020