Andrew Liu is a Sun Devil alumni, having graduated in May of 2018. Shortly after, he took on the year-long role of AmeriCorps VISTA Member and Makerspace Coordinator with the City of Phoenix. He took some time to share about his experience, what he learned as a VISTA member and suggestions for those considering a similar path in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. (STEAM).
Can you share a bit about makerspace?
Sure! In 2016, the City of Phoenix was awarded a Jobs Plus Grant from HUD to assist both the youth and adults at the Marcos de Niza housing site with moving towards self-sufficiency through education, training and employment. The iWORK (Improving Work Opportunities and Resident Knowledge) program was established, with one of the goals being the development of a community makerspace.
The community makerspace for the residents of Marcos de Niza is a safe place for them to come in and express their creativity, collaborate with others, spark their interest in a STEAM career and build relevant skills that employers are looking for. The makerspace is equipped with the technology and tools necessary to learn important STEAM-related skills such as coding, robotics, 3D modeling, 3D printing, electronics, drawing, coloring and sewing.
How did you hear about makerspace, and what was the application process like?
I heard about the makerspace and AmeriCorps on an online job posting after I graduated from ASU in May 2018. The application process was pretty straightforward and completed through the My AmeriCorps portal. It consisted of a motivational statement, skills and experience, education, community service and two references.
What type of applicants would be a good fit for this program?
This program is a good fit for people that believe in the maker movement and support the expansion of makerspaces and creative centers in our local communities. A background in STEM & art (or STEAM) is preferred, along with experience in conducting creative hands-on activities using physical and digital technologies. Familiarity with teaching strategies in informal and formal settings that support creative engaged learning is a plus.
What is next for you?
I will be using the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award to further my education and skills through graduate school or a coding boot camp.
How has the experience impacted your career trajectory/professional goals?
My experience at the makerspace through AmeriCorps has motivated me to pursue my goal of managing my own creative space or business one day. I have gained valuable experience over the year in regards to makerspace management, STEAM engagement and communication with people of all ages and backgrounds. AmeriCorps VISTA has definitely helped me realize that a makerspace or workshop environment is the type of place where I would love to continue working.
What pieces of advice would you give to students considering AmeriCorps VISTA, AmeriCorps or something similar?
Students should consider 1-year national service programs like AmeriCorps VISTA if they want to gain experience working at non-profits and public organizations around the country. Living on a stipend is definitely challenging, but the experience has grown my professional network and set me up very well to continue my education and career. I wouldn’t have been able to meet all the great people around the city that support STEM and art without AmeriCorps.
Where can interested students go to learn more about the makerspace program?
Students can learn more about the Marcos de Niza makerspace and apply for the VISTA position at My AmeriCorps here. Note: A new Makerspace Coordinator is hired each year, and applications are typically accepted in February and March.
More VISTA positions in Arizona that students can apply for can be found through HandsOn Greater Phoenix.