Hello again from 32,000 feet where I’m flying back to Stanford for a short SparkTruck break. Since our last update, we’ve been to 2 cities, run 4 workshops, and met countless more awesome people.
Let’s start off in Denver where we were invited to plug into the Boys & Girls Clubs of America Southwest Regional Leadership Conference. We rolled into Denver late on Tuesday the 7th, and were greeted with two beautiful rooms at the Sheraton Denver Downtown.
After laying down in those beds, none of us wanted to get up the next day for our series of workshops. But we did, and boy were we glad! Our audience was a bit older and better dressed than usual – conference attendees ranged from CEOs to Chairmen of the Board to Executive Directors of different BGCA chapters – but it wasn’t long before they were channeling their inner kid to brainstorm and build pompom launchers.
The variety of different strategies people used to launch pompoms was tremendous, and some were more successful than others.
By the time our back-to-back-to-back…(x7) sessions were over, we’d definitely made our mark(s) on Denver.
As we wrapped up each session, we tried to impart a quick message to these club leaders: just as they got to tinker and prototype their way through failure (and trust us, there were some epic pompom launching failures), the programs they were dreaming up for their Boys & Girls Clubs should let kids build and explore, in order to build their confidence at tackling wicked problems.
With no scheduled stops between Denver and Chicago, and the promise of comfortable (and free!) beds at my house, we trucked it across miles of corn, wheat, and soybeans.
Having arrived in town a day earlier than scheduled, we decided to see the sights. So we toured around to see some cool Frank Lloyd Wright houses…
and found a large shiny object to take pictures next to.
But the next day, we were back to work and visiting the Oak Park Library, where we’d caught wind of a cool space they’d designed called the Idea Box. As our friend Derek Attig had clued us into (and as our past library workshops have illustrated), libraries are beginning to become places for patrons to collaboratively create in addition to consume knowledge.
We were glad to bring some excitement and firsthand experience with maker tools to the kids, parents and library staff – Monica, our local library contact, describes her experience with the truck:
On Monday, we were scheduled to run two workshops at the Chicago Public Library – Edgebrook Branch with the James Dyson Foundation. Before we headed over though, we stopped by Northwestern where the Design for America Summer Studios (training for leaders of new DFA chapters) was just wrapping up.
It’s been really amazing to watch how DFA has grown so quickly from an awesome idea to a program with 14 chapters all across the country, and we’re definitely going to be picking their brains for ideas as we explore ways to keep SparkTruck rolling. It was also great to meet up with so many enthusiastic and passionate students from all over the country, and we hope to meet up with some of them as we travel further east.
Our workshops at the Edgebrook Branch of the Chicago Public Library were a blast. And we think the kids enjoyed them, too. It was really cool to see some of them re-envision the pager motor that we use to add vibration to our creature robots as something that can power a propeller.
Speaking of power and re-envisioning, this workshop was a forage into a new frontier for us as this marked the first time when we ran the truck from a generator. It only took us 20 minutes to figure out how to make it work.
The last two stops of our Chicago trip part 1 were the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier and Cannon Design’s Third Teacher + team on Michigan Avenue. For the uninitiated, these two locations just happen to be the two most heavily trafficked destinations in the city. Needless to say, we had fun parking, and finally have an answer to the question, “how many people does it take to park SparkTruck in Chicago?”
Parking challenges aside, we had a great time exploring the Children’s Museum, and were excited to hear about their forthcoming Tinkering Workshop – a makerspace for kids. It was incredible to see such a respected institution being so “bold and experimental” in their thinking, and being so committed to letting kids explore and create using real tools and materials, even if this meant that some “everyday injuries” might occur. We’re looking forward to the opening of their new space in February, and also excited to visit the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum’s MAKEshop which was an early inspiration for their undertaking.
While we’re parking the truck for a bit this week, the work continues. Supplies are on the way, workshops are being scheduled, and the future is being figured out one day at a time. That’s all for now, but check back soon for more news!