Traveling the country, making friends, seeing amazing sights, sparking innovation… SparkTruck’s 2013 summer tour was a huge success
Oh, the places we went: from the beaches of San Diego, to a quiet Coloradoan hot-spring nestled in the Aspen hills, to the raucous and relishable music scene in Nashville, to our favorite museums and historical landmarks in Washington, DC… we saw it all, from sea to sparking sea.
As we reflect on our whirlwind adventures, we want to share some of the most memorable moments of our summer in the SparkTruck.
First of all, Chicago — our favorite week of the trip by far. We enjoyed every second in the city, eating loaded hot dogs and walking around the most beautiful skyscrapers in the country, driving next to Lake Michigan, and reaching out to communities that truly needed a spark. It was so special to be in Steven’s hometown, and he got to show us his old stomping grounds — including the Museum of Science & Industry and Hyde Park Boulevard, where we stayed right next to President Obama’s house! (Thanks to our amazing hosts, the McKinney family!)
Gainesville — our busiest, and therefore most rewarding, week! The Cade Museum shares our passion for learning by making, and it was great to meet and befriend Phoebe, Richard, Jen, Patty, and the rest of the Cade crew. Children all around Florida got a sense of spark: we traveled through several counties to run workshops, visited a hurricane-proof home in Pensacola, were on Orlando TV, and got to show off our new Cube printer’s gator creations!
The East Coast had some very special moments. Zunzi’s in Savannah, GA gave us the second-best sandwich in the country, as well as a new catchphrase - Spark Yeah! Max met up with us and gave a tour of his Durham, NC alma mater, Duke University - a beautiful, historic campus.
New York: the city that never sleeps! We adventured through three boroughs, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. The NY Hall of Science hosted an all-day event for us in their Rocket Plaza, where some of our participants even made the local news!
Pittsburgh’s Mini Maker Faire brought us into the heart of a thriving Maker Movement. Then it was on to MIT, where we encouraged some of the country’s brightest minds to make and think creatively about today’s technical issues.
Looking back on all of these special moments and memories, we, the SparkTruck crew of 2013, cannot wait to see what the future travels of the SparkTruck can bring to the world. As people, students, thinkers, and seasoned adventurers, it’s clear to us that the SparkTruck’s quest to promote hands-on creative confidence in kids around the country is the best thing ever. Thank you all for following our trek; stay tuned for even more untold memories, stories, musings and reflections as the year progresses and our nostalgia deepens.
The MIT Museum was the perfect place to incite creative confidence! Surrounded by groundbreaking research, the next generation of innovators designed new ways to clean their teeth and collaborated to make fuel sources for their Mindstorms.
We were joined by the Inventioneers, who showcased their own LEGO robotics and their SMARTwheel, which promotes safe driving practices. Thanks for sharing your maker spirit with us, Inventioneers! We can’t wait to have our very own SMARTwheel.
It looks like this could be our last workshop for the summer :,( Some of us have to go back to school and others, ahem (Sarah), have to screw our head on for the real world : o Look out for updates on our adventures, San Francisco or Bust!!!
Driving through the infamous Hershey, PA got us ready and raring to go for Pittsburgh’s Mini Maker Faire. With plenty of sugar still pulsing through our blood streams, we pulled up to the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum alongside some of the area’s most innovative, impressive Makers. The Girls of Steel Robotics Program made frisbees fly! And we couldn’t get enough of Whimsy’s adhesive mustaches.
Pittsburgh’s young makers impressed us most, check out these Lego creations!
While packing up we were honored by a visit from Dale Dougherty, the founder of Maker Media, the group responsible for Make Magazine as well as Maker Faires across the country. Thanks for the inspiration and for the community you have incited, Dale! We’ll be sure to pass on your spark as our journey continues.
The truck ﬁnally made it to the Big Apple on Thursday (8.14.15) morning, pushing its way through a land dominated by yellow taxis and towered by magniﬁcent skyscrapers…watch out Chicago, New York is beautiful too. And can you believe that almost half of the Sparkees had never gotten to explore this city?!
No time for that yet though as we had to quickly push through trafﬁc to meet our friends at the Brooklyn Robot Foundry. We could not have asked for a more exited group of kids and makers, they were even making their own Vibrobots out of IKEA supplies when we arrived!
After a night of subway hopping the New York Hall of Science greeted us with mini golf, crowds of kids, and even another educational mobile called the Bio Bus where we were mindblown by a way-too-close-up of a praying mantis…SparkTruck had its own close up as well on NY channel 1 that night, we think the camera really agrees with her ;)
It’s safe to say we didn’t want to leave this city anytime soon, over an hour of bumper to bumper trafﬁc on our way out through Manhattan did not help either, some were knocked out cold in the back seat while poor Warren had to stay up. Pittsburgh awaits!!!
We met Inventables CEO Zach Kaplan at the PS1 hackstation in Chicago. After allowing him a close examination of the SparkTruck, this hands-on executive must’ve thought we were something special — because he made it clear that we were invite-able to a tour of the Inventables HQ!
During our tour later that week, we discovered the Inventables’ office to be more inventive than we could’ve known. All walls are whiteboards! A sliding bookcase cleverly conceals their main workspace! And their recently-expanded supply bay reveals a tidy metropolis of holographic acrylics, purple zebra-wood, and fabrication tools galore.
The company that’s gained immense industry respect as a “hardware store for designers” showed us that it’s possible to have cake and make it too. Their side-projects and explorations of design philosophy were truly inspiring. To sweeten our goodbye, Zach handed us an awesome donation: a heatbender, to complement our laser cutter.
Thank you, Zach - and thanks for letting us “recycle” some of your “pre-cut” acrylic, Inventables designers - we’ve made cool stuff for some kids!
next stop… New York, New York!
Philly was awesome!
The Smith playground -part of the largest park in the United States-opened its lawn for the SparkTruck. It was a wonderful experience to have an open make session with all of the Philadelphia youth and parents.
We also got some tasty cheesesteaks from the Reading Terminal. A maker’s gotta eat :)
SparkTruck set up shop at the Fab Lab D.C. and the National Building Museum!
Thanks D.C. for showing us Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Making!
We left our new friends in Gainesville for Durham
Met up with HASTAC!
Experienced Engineer Day @ the Museum of Life and Science!
and had a fried food extravaganza complemented with southern hospitality and sweet tea :)
5,000 miles into our expedition, the Cade Museum’s offices finally rose in front of us under a thunderbolting sky. Opening the doors to their small office building on the outskirts the University of Florida’s, we were instantly was campus is They warmly welcomed us to Gainesville — home of gators, the Gators, and Gatorade. It was a little scary walking into the Cade’s offices to discuss our exciting week because the Cade people handed a perfectly organized binder and itinerary and even had volunteers ready to help a each location. How did they know? Where did we land? Would SparkTruck find a SparkHome?
But it turned out, the Cade folks were nice. In fact, after our first discussion of the week ahead, we saw that these people (who had worked for months to coordinate our arrival) were just like us: excited about future opportunities for creative thinkers, and willing to work hard now to give everyone a creative boost. The space that the Cade Museum now occupies was amazing, full of eccentric equipment- like a chemistry lab with original cabinets from Dr.Cade’s lab (inventor of Gatorade)
The connection we made with the Cade was so good, that it was a little weird. But we learned an important saying from them: “If it’s weird and works, what’s the problem?” Patty, you’re awesome. Everyone is awesome.
Stayed tuned for the Cade Museum to open in 2015!