Crowd-funding a Mobile Makerspace

STEMulate Learning program logo

STEMulate Learning has already crowd-funded a compute node for grid high-performance computing and a 3D Printer from MakerBot Industries in two rounds of the #SciFund Challenge through the RocketHub crowd-funding site. After receiving positive encouragement to my mention of a mobile makerspace that could move between schools to reach educators and students in urban and rural school districts, I will be creating a new crowd-funding campaign using the Kickstarter site to leverage what we already have together with a few new components to “take this on the road.”

Our mobile makerspace will use the model created by O’Reilly Media’s Make division in partnership with Otherlab under the DARPA MENTOR program. This is available from MakerSpace.Com as a document entitled High School Makerspace Tools & Materials (Pdf). In order to manage this makerspace in a mobile platform, we will focus the available space on several modules from the Makerspace.com document:

  • Workspace – Our workspace will be configured in a mobile trailer rather than a fixed static location.
  • General – This provides a good basic set of tools to be used in combination with the other more focused modules.
  • Electronics – Leveraging our success in past workshops, electronics and robotics have been the basis for current development of the SOLID Learning model using readily available components like the popular Arduino microprocessor together with 3D printed robotic frames.
  • Computers – We can use the computer crowd-funded in Round 1 of the #SciFund Challenge as the basis for this module. This computer continues to Tweet (@STEMulateOrg) its CPU contributions to the humanitarian high-performance (supercomputing) World Community Grid (WCG) so that educators, students and crowd-funding supporters can monitor its continuing weekly progress.
  • 3D Printing – We can use the 3D Printer provided by MakerBot Industries in Round 2 of the #SciFund Challenge as the basis for this module. The Computer from Round 1 will drive this equipment and allow teachers the opportunity to design new components using Sketchup and TinkerCAD.
  • Laser Cutting – In order to cut out more robust materials, this module would be a new addition to the STEMulate Learning program’s offerings. Using the same computer, this module will allow the precise manufacture of plywood, acrylic and thin metal structural components for teacher and student designs.

This is not a full makerspace covering all possible areas of educational engagement by any means. Due to space limitations, the Mobile Makerspace will not include other modules defined by Makerspace.com, such as the woodworking, metalworking or textiles modules. We might later add the CNC Cutting module as a project for construction by participants using the Computers, 3D Printing and Laser Cutting equipment. If successful, this would add the ability to fashion 3D milled objects from thicker solid materials.

Educators have already identified their desire to create RepRap 3D Printers to take back to their schools, but often lack the very basics needed to create educational technologies such as this. The Mobile Makerspace could be used by teachers to create these items right on the school grounds to better engage other teachers, administrators, students and parents from the very beginning.

The creation of a mobile makerspace will not happen by itself – it will require public support for our project once the crowd-funding project has been created. After two previous crowd-funding projects in the #Scifund Challenge, I am pleased to point to our past and continuing successes as proof that community support and education align very well.

I encourage you to check back in the weeks ahead as the STEMulate Learning Mobile Makerspace project is set up to ask for public support through Kickstarter. Tell your friends about this project, your makerspace/hackerspace compatriots, and anyone else involved with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education for high school and junior high kids. All designs and lessons from the STEMulate Learning Mobile Makerspace will be shared here for others to create versions of their own and spread the joys of Making to interest and excite young learners.

Share, tweet, like, stumble, follow and otherwise spread the word about this exciting concept!

 Main SOLID Learning link: Introduction to SOLID Learning

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