National Science Foundation Provides Innovation Grant to Bring Maker Therapy Initiative and Dedicated Makerspaces to California Pediatric Centers, George Mark Children’s House, and Santa Clara Valle

December 17, 2020 9:01 AM EST

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Partners Maker Therapy, Gyroscope Inc., Digital Harbor Foundation, and Boston University To Develop and Design Makerspace Learning Environments that Enhance STEM Learning and Holistic Well-being for Chronically Ill Children, Families, and Siblings

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 17, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The National Science Foundation (NSF;, an independent federal agency focused on promoting the progress of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), is providing an $827,316 innovation grant to research, design, and build inclusive, technology-centered Makerspaces in two California pediatric centers: George Mark Children’s House in San Leandro and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose.

NSF Program Officer, Robert Russell, explains the potential of the project, “This project has great potential to enrich the lives of chronically ill children and youth, and their families, who are in pediatric facilities and have little control over their lives. The design of a pediatric Makerspace and project activities can provide opportunities for these children and their families to invent, create, and perhaps even develop new inventions that can help others. Others may also adapt the Makerspace design model and maker activities developed by this project to provide opportunities for children and families in similar settings.”

Dr. Gokul Krishnan, founder of Maker Therapy, a non-profit initiative that designs patient-centric Makerspaces in pediatric settings, will lead the development of the project at the two pediatric centers, alongside Dr. Maria Olivares, Research Assistant Professor at Boston University’s Earl Center for Learning and Innovation; Andrew Coy, Executive Director at Digital Harbor Foundation in Baltimore, MD, and Gyroscope Inc. a multidisciplinary design studio in Oakland, CA.

“I believe that young people, regardless of diagnosis, need rich learning opportunities and creative outlets. There is often a lot of despair that accompanies the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness or hospitalization. Especially for children in this situation, it’s important to offer outlets that encourage growth, play, and a sense of achievement,” said Dr. Gokul Krishnan. “This project, through the development of Makerspaces, will support young patients by focusing not only on the present, but also on the future—providing opportunities for these young children and teens to explore and express who they are, who they dream of becoming, and the impact they can make right now.”

“Hospital stays are isolating for kids, and now that COVID-19 has hit, it has magnified an already intense sense of social and educational isolation for our patients,” said Dr. Kathy Hull, Founder of George Mark Children’s House. “We’re extremely grateful to receive the grant from the National Science Foundation and are very much looking forward to bringing a Makerspace to our pediatric center to support the learning and development of our patients.”

The project will take place over the next two years, focusing on developing new approaches to designing inclusive, technology-centered Maker environments in pediatric settings, which support the care, emotional well-being, and mental health of children with chronic and life-limiting illnesses. The work is rooted in a commitment to integrating patient needs, concerns, and interests from the design phase’s onset. Tangible outcomes from this project will include:

  • The design and installation of state of the art Makerspace environments consisting of STEM technologies (e.g., 3D printers), computer technologies, and a variety of educational electronics (e.g., coding kits, robotics) that allow patients and their families to be creative together and improve their overall medical experience
  • Professional development and training workshops to staff and volunteers, giving them a better understanding of the program and the collaborative design principles that support patients, families, and siblings to make together within or inspired by the Makerspaces
  • Instructional guides, manuals, educational learning activities, and tutorials that incorporate patient and family making projects to provide guidance and support for users of the Maker Therapy program, along with a handbook highlighting best practices for designing, implementing, and sustaining Makerspaces in pediatric care settings

Pediatric Partners
About George Mark Children’s House
George Mark Children’s House (GMCH), located in San Leandro, California, is the Center of Excellence in Pediatric Palliative in the United States and provides life-affirming care for children with illnesses that modern health care cannot yet cure, or for those who have chronic medical conditions. GMCH bridges the gap between hospital and home, offering safe, excellent medical care in the comfort and warmth of a home-like setting for patients who do not need the resources of a full children’s hospital. GMCH offers three types of service:

  • Transitional care for children who have usually been in an acute care hospital setting and still need medical care, but not of an acute nature, before they transition to being cared for at home.
  • End-of-Life Care, where a patient’s family can stay in its down family suite and surround their child with love and support.
  • Respite Care, where patients receive high-quality medical care and appropriate activities while offering parents and families a short break from the nonstop care at home.

About Santa Clara Valley Medical Center
Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Hospital and Clinics provides high quality, compassionate, and accessible healthcare for all persons in Santa Clara County regardless of their social-economic status and ability to pay. Santa Clara Valley Medical Center has served as a regional pediatric center for more than 50 years, with particular specialization in pediatric trauma, burn, and rehabilitation. With more than 80 board certified specialists in general pediatrics, neonatology, and the pediatric subspecialties, the Pediatrics Department provides quality care in nearly every pediatric discipline. Dedicated to providing the best possible care for all children.

NSF Project Team
About Maker Therapy
Maker Therapy is a non-profit initiative that designs patient-centric Makerspaces in pediatric settings to support technologically rich learning experiences for hospitalized and chronically ill patients. Founder Dr. Gokul Krishnan, an Educational Research Scientist from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education, was inspired by a young and creative Cancer patient in 2013 and has since been on a mission to create a more hopeful world for children, teens, and adolescents living with chronic illnesses. The privilege of working alongside young patients over the past seven years has allowed Dr. Krishnan to see these young patients not as merely “sick kids” in the hospital but rather as bright, imaginative, and inventive kids who have the potential to design, create and live fuller healthier lives. Learn more at

About Gyroscope Inc
Gyroscope Inc. is a multidisciplinary studio of creative designers offering strategic planning, exhibit, and graphic design, public art, and architectural services for museums, libraries, visitor centers, and other cultural institutions. Located in Oakland, CA, Gyroscope serves an international clientele. The firm specializes in creating interactive learning environments for children, families, and communities. Learn more at

About Digital Harbor Foundation
The Digital Harbor Foundation (DHF), a non-profit organization located in Baltimore City, is dedicated to fostering innovation, tech advancement, and entrepreneurship by helping youth develop digital age skills through maker and computer science education. In 2013, DHF reopened the closed South Baltimore Rec Centers as the Digital Harbor Foundation Tech Center, a youth-centric makerspace, and in 2014 launched the Center of Excellence for Innovation in Technology Education. In 2019, this work grew to include a number of fiscally-sponsored projects that further extend opportunities to individuals around the United States. Learn more at

Earl Center for Learning and Innovation, Boston University
The Earl Center for Learning and Innovation is a collaborative space for social dreaming and radical hope. A space where youth and adults, learners and teachers, researchers, and designers join together in expansive inquiry to develop educational experiences animated by commitments to creativity, dignity, and justice. A participatory research community, the Earl Center is committed to developing learning ecologies creatively responsive to the complexities of the world as it is and as it could be. Working at intersections of STEM, humanities, and the arts, the Earl Center designs ecologies where youth grow as engaged and critical authors of connected social futures. The center is part of BU’s Wheelock College of Education and Human Development. Learn more at

Media Contact:
Mary Hong, Praytell
Email: [email protected]

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