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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Evanston Y.O.U. to upgrade MakerSpace technology with grant money

Sonya Dymova/Daily Senior Staffer
Y.O.U. plans to upgrade its MakerSpace technology with more than $32,000 in grant money received in November.

Jerry Reed, 18, has longboarded since he was in eighth grade. 

While attending Youth & Opportunity United’s after-school program in Evanston, Reed was challenged to build anything using $250. Incorporating passion into his project, he decided to make a light-up longboard, he said. 

Reed got to work in Y.O.U.’s MakerSpace, a facility for students to tinker with technology. It includes a sound booth, laser cutter, 3D printers, audio-visual equipment, computers and digital software. 

Using wire cutters and screwdrivers, Reed took the white lights used for the underside of countertops and added them to the bottom of his skateboard. After his first model broke, Reed said he wasn’t discouraged and continued to make modifications, –– starting with colored lights. 

Y.O.U., which provides programming to Evanston and Skokie youth, built its MakerSpace to allow kids to explore activities such as graphic design, robotics, music and manufacturing. And, in November, it received a more than $32,000 Exelon Foundation Green Lab Grant given to fund interactive activities in STEM in Illinois.

MakerSpace Manager Allen Moore said grant money will go toward technology upgrades, including a new laser cutter, MacBooks and iPads. 

Moore, who is a turntablist himself, said many kids using the MakerSpace are interested in music production, so the grant money will also go toward a PA system for karaoke and sound mixing.

“I make my records by hand,” Moore said. “I talk a lot about social justice, the Black imagination, everybody’s right to be free. That’s what I mix into my music.”

Moore integrates freedom into the MakerSpace, too. He said the facility is a place for students to express themselves, whether it’s mixing a track on GarageBand or creating a short film. 

“We give the space for kids to tinker, to be inspired, to be themselves, to play and to make mistakes,” Moore said. 

Executive Director of Advancement Laurie Dayon said winning the grant was unexpected because Y.O.U. had applied for it in 2022 but was rejected. She said she was “ecstatic” to hear Y.O.U. was successful this time. 

Dayon calls the MakerSpace “a safe place to fail.” She said the fluid environment of the MakerSpace allows for kids to learn without even knowing it. Kids gain resilience and collaboration, which are life skills, Dayon said.

The confidence kids gain from the MakerSpace is a key part of Y.O.U.’s mission to close the achievement gap between wealthy and underserved youth, Moore added. 

“The work being done at Y.O.U. to erase that (achievement gap) is powerful, and I believe in the experiential learning piece of it,” Dayon said.

Reed said his time in the MakerSpace gave him the confidence to take risks and be ambitious.  

Now, Reed works for Y.O.U. and helps instill those same skills in other kids. 

Reed helps Chute Middle School students with homework and leads enrichment classes. Most recently, he taught a class about car mechanics, he added.

Moore said he hopes that by updating the MakerSpace technology, Y.O.U. can attract more students. He said he looks forward to facilitating collaboration in the MakerSpace where older kids, like Reed, can become mentors to younger ones. 

“We’re excited to participate in Evanston and to have this opportunity to collaborate with new equipment,” Moore said. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @rschlueter26

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