The Disruption Department Is Fostering The Next Generation Of Innovators

By Rachel Brandt
In Culture

While many students were taking their biology finals, educator Andrew Goodin was fostering the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs in The Disruption Department’s Makerspace at Grand Center Arts Academy. At ALIVE, we stay on the cutting edge of the STL tech and startup scene, so our team spent a morning with The Disruption Department’s Executive Director-Nate Marschalk, Co-Founder Andrew Goodin and his STEAM Innovation Lab students—discovering what keeps a high school Makerspace ticking.

Photo of Andrew Goodin working with a student in the Makerspace by Rachel Brandt.

Photo of Andrew Goodin working with a student in the Makerspace by Rachel Brandt.

In short, the Makersspace at Grand Center Arts Academy is “an open lab for students to maximize their creative genius.” With very little standardized curriculum, the minds behind the makerspace believe that students learn best while creating for themselves. With a mix of high- and low-tech tools and supplies, students are given a task and through the process of design thinking, required to apply their critical thinking skills to solve a problem. Students are free to come up with ideas and explore what interests them, be it chemistry or music theory. Once a project is a go, Goodin guides the students through a sort of design crash course, the first of its kind in the St. Louis area.

“Andrew is really one of the most gifted teachers not just regionally, but nationally, teaching in a Makerspace,” says Marschalk. After observing students sharing their projects and engaging in the evaluation of each other’s work, it’s clear that they are not only learning, but having fun, something rare to see in a high school classroom days away from summer vacation.

Photo of students working in the Makerspace by Rachel Brandt.

Photo of students working in the Makerspace by Rachel Brandt.

Like the students learning in the classroom, the Makerspace is constantly evolving. Marschalk continues, “We’re constantly taking feedback from students and making changes.” To Marschalk, even the design of the classroom is critical to student success.

After spending a semester in this sort of classroom setting, you may be wondering how these students are evaluated. How do The Disruption Department, Grand Center Arts Academy and the educators of the Makerspace gauge success?

Goodin explains, “Clearly I can’t look at a cell phone case that integrates headphones (a student’s project) and compare that to an inspirational video made by another student and say, ‘This one is a B and this one is an A.’ Makerspace is all about the thinking process. A lot of that thinking, reflection and documentation happens in our briefing room. Students answer questions designed to build their creative confidence. They put a huge amount of thought into their projects.”

Photo in the Makerspace at Grand Center Arts Academy.

Photo in the Makerspace at Grand Center Arts Academy by Rachel Brandt.

The Disruption Department believes that all students, no matter their circumstance, should be provided with access to technology and innovative learning experiences. By giving these students an avenue to a technical education and the creative freedom and confidence to explore their interests, these educators are not only keeping children interested and engaged, they’re paving the way for St. Louis to be a leading producer of innovating in the future.

Learn more about The Disruption Department and how you can get involved on their website here.


Photo of student Julian Williams working on his shoe trading company and website, “Tha Middle Man” in the Makerspace by Lindsay Pattan.

Interested in what these young innovators were creating in the Makerspace this semester? Read on:
Leonard Blake (Grade 9) – Online comic book
Zach Clawges (Grade 10) – Zach’s Jack & Zach’s Crate (puzzle & comedy clip)
Terrance Harper (Grade 10) – Star Wars Cello mash-up
Menkahre Maasera-Rawlins (Grade 9) – Web-based chemistry game
Dontae Madison Jr. (Grade 10) – Foot massaging slipper
Jerron McClendon (Grade 9) – Inspirational sports video montage
Makayla McGruder (Grade 10) – 3D printed chapstick case
Oscar Nshimirimana (Grade 10) – Cell phone case with headphones holder
KeShun Payne (Grade 10) – Toebox insoles to prevent shoe creasing
Deja Price (Grade 10) – “Express Yourself” mash-up video
Jaila Thomas (Grade 10) – Call-to-action video to end homelessness
Caroline Ward (Grade 11) – Music theory website
Jordin Washington (Grade 10) – Choose-your-own-adventure trivia game
Bryshauna Whitehorn (Grade 9) – Gay Straight Alliance promotional video
Julian Williams (Grade 10) – Shoe trading company & website – “Tha Middle Man”

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