If you’re looking for practical help and support for getting started with a makerspace –  a place where young people can get creative with tech and science –  these steps are for you! Recently we’ve been learning by doing, with small scale maker projects in two different youth groups. Read on to find out what you need to know to do the same, how to get started and build your enthusiasm for delivering great youth work with a strong tech focus.

Whether your interest is in a digital makerspace, or in a wider STEM project, find ideas and think about how to start a makerspace that could have a huge impact.  Young people can develop skills they need for work, understanding how to contribute to our economy in the future. Discover how young people can gain a Young STEM Leader Programme award as a way of recognising their achievements and preparing them to support and inspire others. 

The steps here are the result of two real-life projects that ran during 2021 in Leith and Douglas – one in the city, one in a rural community. The purpose of these pilots was to show how the Young STEM Leader Programme can be used in a youth work setting, generating a long term interest in STEM, opportunities for careers and a desire to become a leader, sharing and inspiring others. 

Watch the film about the makerspace at The Citadel, Leith.

If you’ve got experience of developing or using a makerspace, especially one for young people, we’d love to hear from you. 

Step 1:  Inspire your group about STEM

Developing an interest in STEM subjects can be so important for opening up career opportunities.  Steven Youngston led the makerspace project in Douglas, Lanarkshire. He says,  “Douglas is an isolated rural community with high unemployment. We introduced young people to STEM initially through the Astro Pi project, which gives young people the opportunity to conduct a scientific experiment in space. This was the starting place for forming a group of young people who were interested in doing more to do with stem.” 

Steven Ryan at The Citadel in Leith says, “Our starting place was different.  We were developing a girls club and looking for a topic that would help them. A makerspace project to convert our rather unloved art room turned out to be just the thing.” 

Step 2: Get trained up to deliver YSLP

For our particular projects we were working closely with the Young STEM Leader Programme. To deliver this, youth workers need to complete a short session to become a Tutor Assessor. Find out more on the Young STEM Leader Programme website.

There are lots of other training opportunities too. For example Build a Makerspace , an online course from FutureLearn, sponsored by Raspberry Pi where you can collaborate with others or work on your own to learn new skills and activities to use with young people. 

 At YouthLink Scotland we’ve been running a Digital Makerspaces Learning Community. 

Step 3: Explore makerspaces with like-minded youth workers

On the subject of learning, at YouthLink Scotland we are currently hosting a Digital Makerspaces Learning Community with funding from Education Scotland’s STEM Nation Professional Learning Fund.  Youth workers with an interest in digital makerspaces can get together to share ideas, activities, tools, resources and different approaches.  We’ve had fantastic inputs around creating digital games, making videos, developing makerspace activities and more. 

Here’s Luci Holland of the Tinderbox Collective, a member of the community, speaking at the Digital Youth Work Conference 2022.

Contact hphillips@youthlinkscotland.org if you’d like to know more about the community. 

Step 4: Register young people for Young STEM Leader Programme awards

 Of course, the ethos of a makerspace is that flexibility and creativity are the order of the day. So the setting is not geared towards formal qualifications. However, YSLP, can be awarded at an “informal” level and is an ideal way of gaining recognition for the science and technology skills that young people are developing. 

 The Young STEM Leader Programme is about young people developing the ability to lead others. Group activities in a youth work setting can create an ideal environment for helping young people find interest in a science related subject and also develop the confidence to share that with others. 

Step 5: Generate makerspace ideas as a group

When young people work together creatively to come up with the ideas for what they want to create, they feel strong ownership of those ideas. When the ideas are then developed all the way through to delivery, that becomes a really exciting project. Youth workers have the skills to make sure that young people build a space that they are genuinely excited about and want to use. It’s the youth work ability to genuinely identify those interests with young people, and build relationships for learning that makes this work.  

 The projects in Leith and Douglas both used Innobox , a collection of resources created by Finnish digital youth work specialists, Verke,  a great way to apply a bit of “service design thinking” in the youth work setting. 

Step 6: Kit out your space

Once the ideas begin to flow you’ll need to think about the kit you need and more from there to develop your makerspace.  Not every makerspace needs a 3D printer, but it does seem to be a defining piece of kit. 

 There wasn’t a whole lot of space in Douglas, so the maker space is really just the corner of a room. They already had a computer, but the 3D printer was an important purchase which allowed them to create a games arcade. 

Step 7: Find the funds 

When there is funding to support the makerspace, young people feel valued and their ideas are immediately validated because they quickly have access to new equipment to realise them – this creates a sense of excitement, momentum, ownership, responsibility.  

Our example projects each had £1000 to spend and young people led the way, specifying the space and then designing what it would contain. There are a number of different places to go for funding.  One relevant source in Scotland at the moment is Digital Xtra Fund which offers grants of up to £5k to enable groups to “understand and create with technology” not just consume it. 

Step 8: Working in a makerspace

Your makerspace will be unique, to meet the needs and interests of your group.  At The Citadel in Leith the group re-modelled the artroom into a creative space where their club could meet.  As part of the project they also visited other projects such as a woodworking space. 

In Douglas, the team worked together, using their new equipment  to design and built a games arcade, using the new resources. 

The result is an amazing addition to the youth centre, designed and built by the group. Wow! 

Step 9: Complete the YSLP Award process

By completing the Young STEM Leader Programme Award young people can record their projects and notice the skills they are learning. 

Time needs to be allocated for this through the project and recording can be audio or video or other means – it doesn’t always have to be written. 

Step 10: Go on benefitting into the future

The fabulous thing about these projects is that both have created something tangible that other young people will benefit from in the future.  The young people worked together, developing their interest and knowledge of STEM and developing other wider skills such as confidence to express their ideas and to work as a team. The YSLP Awards provided a way for this work to be recognised, adding value.  

Importantly, an evaluation of the project was a key element, with YouthLink Scotland providing an approach to impact evaluation that considered the benefit to young people and the learning and development for youth workers.  Overall, both projects validated the idea of makerspaces as creative, flexible places for young people to develop STEM related skills in a youth work environment. 

These projects were made possible by funding from the Young STEM Leaders Programme. The Citadel, Leith and Douglas Universal Connections ran the pilot makerspace projects and YouthLink Scotland co-ordinated the project and ran the evaluation.  

Find out more about the projects by watching the Digital Makerspaces workshop from the Digital Youth Work Conference 2022.

 Growing digital youth work

Our strategy at YouthLink Scotland is to grow digital youth work, helping youth work organisations and practitioners to develop the skills they need to use digital well. 

Find digital youth work training for youth workers 


Hilary Phillips, YouthLink Scotland. March 2022