Don’t Count Yourself Out: A Makerspace Experience

By Lauren Horan ’20. 

Let me start off this post by saying, I am not a handy person. A bit ironic, considering my mom designs and builds homes and is one of the most innovative people I know. Instead, I’m one of those people who believes they can accomplish something without instructions, refuses help, and then thirty minutes later realizes what a mistake they have made. So imagine how mind blowing it is, walking into a makerspace and seeing these ingenious college students, adults, and even a 12-year-old boy operating high tech machinery as if it was second nature.

But, you ask, what exactly is a makerspace? According to, it “is a collaborative work space inside a school, library, or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring, and sharing.” Before this opportunity, I along with most others, had no idea what it was. We were only introduced to this concept after a few of my teachers became involved in the makerspace, Build, RVA, in Scott’s Addition last year. After sharing their experiences and some of their incredible final projects, they decided to extend this opportunity to students, eagerly wanting to see where our creative minds would take us. Students had the ability to fill out an application, in hopes to be one out of the seven students chosen for the program.

Walking into Build, RVA for the first time, the seven of us girls were a bit baffled. Baffled at the tools around us that we didn’t even know existed, baffled at the commitment of the many people working late into the evening on a project, and baffled at the many possibilities presented before us. You want to learn how to weld? Done. Operate a laser machine? Easy. Learn CNC software and how to operate the CNC router? Not a problem. With the help of volunteers, the teachers, and the real troopers, Seth, Ryan, and Oliver, almost anything was possible. However, the real question that clouded up our minds the first couple days was, how in the world were we going to narrow down what we wanted to create? After all, options were practically limitless.

With this question floating among the few brain cells we had left after exams, most of us spent days scrolling through Pinterest, trying to narrow down our final project. Yet, inspiration wasn’t only found within the computer screen. Inspiration was found throughout the workshop, when we saw someone spending hours on a layered sign for a new Carytown restaurant, an intricate relief model of Buddha, and even more impressive, the Hyperloop that VCU has entered into Elon Musk’s competition (which is so, so cool). Eventually, we all decided on our final projects. I chose to create an aluminum medallion to hand over my bed.

Now that I’ve completed my project, I’ve realized something very important. So what if I’m not a handy person? Wait, let me rephrase that. How many opportunities have I had to be a handy person? My answer? They can all be counted on one hand. I’ve come to realize that I have to stop categorizing myself into what I can and cannot do.

At the beginning of this summer, I doubted myself. I wondered how it was possible for me to build these amazing creations like everyone else around me. Now, it brings a smile to my face seeing the reactions of new members when they see a 4’11 junior in high school operating a machine three times the size of her, as if I have been doing it forever. The real message I’m trying to get across is, you can’t count yourself out if you’ve never been given the opportunity.

Lauren Horan ’20 is a junior at Saint Gertrude High School. When not playing lacrosse, basketball or dancing, she spends her time representing her class in the Student Cooperative Association (SCA), cheering on SGHS’s athletics teams as a member of spirit club and showing off the school as a student ambassador. Whenever there’s a free moment, she loves spending time with her family, friends and playing with her dog.