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Palo Alto City Library, CA

Contact: Monique le Conge Ziesenhenne,


makeX is a teen-designed “third space” for Palo Alto middle-school and high-school age teens, open to users of all ages, that promotes self-directed and mentored creative expression and learning about art and technology, meets the educational and social needs of the teen audience and, through its mobile nature, encourages participation by teen audiences throughout the City. Teens were extensively involved in the planning process in a manner that promoted their engagement in the design thinking process and demonstrated the applications of design thinking concepts in life and learning. They created an environment where teen voices were heard, validated, and used to determine the final design which contributes to Palo Alto’s overall goal of improving the well-being of young people by expanding programming for teens and the Palo Alto City Council’s priority of "Technology and the Connected City." It is a model and on-going prototype that can be replicated throughout libraries and museums. The Art Center engages teens in developing 21st-century skills through visual arts. The Library fosters 21st-century skills through library resources and capitalizes on the success it’s had incorporating STEM programs in its scheduled activities. Through this partnership, makeX highlights the importance of STEAM.  Funded by an LSTA grant through the California State Library, makeX is a space where Palo Alto youth can go to employ their creative talents in making projects, tinkering, and learning about art and technology through exploration of tools and equipment, including a laser cutter, soldering, drill press, sewing machine, and much more.


Based on research by one of our consultants, author and educator Bernie Trilling, this is believed to be the only teen-designed makerspace in the country, and possibly the world. The model this creates could be a "makespace in a box," with scalable plans (open source, available online at the makeX website) for the space available in libraries and museums, recommended materials and equipment, and suggestions on how to use online systems to reserve equipment. Collaboration between the Palo Alto City Library and Art Center was a unique feature of this project, making it more broadly applicable to cultural institutions. Several pieces of teen-designed furniture were created for seating, storage, and to convey information. To date, this teen-run makerspace has moved to several locations, including the lobby of City Hall, and over 425 participants have made use of the space to-date.

Three evaluations were used with the teens designing the project: a pre-project survey, to understand the teen's knowledge/awareness of makerspaces, design thinking, and their expectations; an equipment survey, to select/rate needed equipment, based on the teens' makerspace learning and peer interviews; and a post-survey, to understand how they enjoyed the process and what they learned. It was interesting to learn that about half of the participants had been introduced to the idea of design thinking in their middle school years and had subsequently practiced it. The diversity in how they would like to use a makerspace was also of interest, including everything from robotics, to dolls, to catapults, to jewelry. This has been achieved! -