Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission awards Multnomah County Library $300,000 grant to build new makerspace at Rockwood Library

Makerspace to pair youth with adult mentors to build STEAM skills

PORTLAND, Ore. — Sept. 17, 2014 — On Sept. 15, the Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission voted to approve a $300,000, three-year Community Access Capital grant for Multnomah County Library to begin creating a “makerspace” called the Rockwood Innovation Station. The Library Foundation has committed to raise additional funding to make this makerspace possible for the Rockwood community.

The Rockwood Innovation Station will be a cooperative learning environment where underserved youth in the Rockwood community can cultivate STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) skills through hands-on learning experiences with the help of adult mentors. 

The Rockwood Innovation Station will provide access to creative technology — such as Computer Aided Design workstations, a 3-D printer, a laser cutter, conductive clay, e-textiles, video and music production tools, robotics and electronics kits —  to help Rockwood teens discover interests and build skills that can lead to educational and job success. Currently, young people in the Rockwood community face language, opportunity and digital divides that limit their opportunities.

Participants will earn digital badges and document their achievements with videos and podcasts. All of these activities will be supported by skilled mentors and trainers recruited with the assistance of community partners such as East Metro STEAM Partnership, PixelArts, OpenFab PDX and Portland Metro STEM Partnership. 

During the initial project phase, the library will devote 20 hours per week in the library’s meeting room and computer lab to hands-on classes and drop-in hours. When the 1,060-square-foot permanent makerspace is complete in January 2016, it will be open 30-35 hours per week.

“Public libraries today can serve as centers for interest-driven learning to provide vital workforce and digital literacy skills that will help our communities thrive in the 21st century,” said Director of Libraries Vailey Oehlke. “We are immensely grateful to the Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission for this grant to kick start the first free makerspace in Multnomah County and to The Library Foundation for its commitment to raising private funds to create needed opportunity for young people in Rockwood.”

“The MHCRC is pleased to invest in this exciting, innovative Multnomah County Library program benefiting youth who live in an area with poverty rates twice that of Multnomah County,” said Carol Studenmund, MHCRC Chair. “Together, through the Rockwood Innovation Station, we can creatively provide underserved youth with skills critical to their success in school and careers.”