Maker Monday Series

Ok, so bear with me for a minute, I’ve had an idea rattling around and I want to see if the hive mind can help me shape it.

I was working on a curriculum for an Arduino Taster today (using the Maker UNO, but I’ll do another post about that). It got me thinking, what’s the point of Arduino in the maker context?

I think it boils down to that with a little bit of knowledge, you have a tool that:

  • can take information from the virtual world and make it part of the physical world (I get a new Facebook message, raise an actual, physical flag on my desktop so that I know)
  • can take information from the physical world and send it to the virtual world (send me a text message when the mailbox door gets opened)

By remixing and combining these two, I can make more complex things (when its been sunny for more than 30 minutes, close my blinds). And at the end of the day, I have a tool that’s removing a lot of the boundaries to what I thought I could build / do.

But Arduino is just one tool that helps me do that (break boundaries of what I can make). The machine shop did that for me too. I can make a lot more out of metal/plastics/fabrication than I thought I could before I learned those tools. Laser cutters, 3D printers, etc – they’re all just another tool that gets me one step closer to being able to make anything I want to make and any of them can be your entry point into that “world” of thinking of yourself as a maker. I’m also reminded of how LMN has chosen to define a “maker”: “Someone who chooses to do something other than just consume.”, but then there’s the next step, something maybe we can call the “maker mindset” where you’re finding ways to connect disciplines to expand your abilities as a maker.

(I’m getting somewhere here, I promise)

Then, I started rethinking my Arduino taster and wondering if I could make it about learning what boundaries the tool can help you break and leaving a student with enough that they know how to start breaking them with it. (“Ask not how to use your Arduino, but what you can make with your Arduino.” :slight_smile: ). And, as I annoyingly often do, I started pondering what other things we could look at in a similar way.

This got me thinking about a “Maker Monday” series. Low/no cost 1.5-2 hour evening workshops designed around using the makerspace to break down the mental boundaries to the maker mindset. It isn’t about how to use the tool per-se, and it isn’t directly about skill-building, but more about what the tool can help you do.

Arduino workshop – build a simple “useful” thing (If the plant needs watering, beep a piezo (or something))
Wood-working – use screws/nails/handsaws to build something really simple. (maybe a wall art project)
Laser cutting – show how to use layers to design something really interesting.

I’m thinking of this as something we’re giving back to the community. Trying to build on our mission by encouraging the “maker mindset” rather than just individual maker disciplines. Not trying to get overly philosophical about it either… we’re still all about actually making things. But I do wonder how many people think the makerspace is a place to learn blacksmtihing, or woodworking, or electronics as individual things. And I wondier if we’re missing an opportunity by not connecting those together as part of a larger mission.

I like the idea of making it a every Monday (or another day) type of thing because then its helping to reinforce the makerspace as an “always-on” type of community resource, but there’s challenges to that of course For one, I don’t want any one person (including myself) to have to host them all or stress out trying to get something planned for the next week. Maybe we could get 5-6 of us together to divvy them up? Other ideas for topics ? The low/no-cost part of this should help too–they don’t have to be overly “produced”. Of course, we want them to be good, no question there, but it could be an entry level opportunity for someone looking to hone their presentation/teaching skills.

Thoughts are, as always, very welcome.

I’m interested in this concept, in particular interested in the Arduino Workshop part. Currently working on designing a Soil Moisture monitoring project using ESP8266 ESP-12, Raspberry Pi with Mosquito (MQTT Broker) with NODE-RED. Might expand it with a Weather Station. Interested in kicking these ideas and processes around with others.

great idea. maybe once a month to save on staffing it, and make it a bit more special. maybe six topics a year, repeated twice?

1 Like

I love this idea in principle, and I think it would be pretty easy to execute in practice. A couple of things come to mind in terms of how to execute it:

• It needs to be zero cost. An event like this is a great community outreach opportunity, but I think that will work best only if we invite the community in at no cost. This goes to some of the conversations you and I have been having, Brian, about how we might develop a more diverse membership. I think even the difference between low cost and no cost will be a barrier to that effort. I also think that this sort of thing will encourage more membership, which will up our revenue in the long run.
• I think this should be monthly. The prospect of running 52 of these a year is really daunting in terms of programming. Even if we have a team of people working on them, it makes sense to have someone coordinating the effort centrally, and yikes, that’s a planning headache. Not impossible, but a lot.
• I think it would also make sense to maybe have a grab-bag of possible workshops running together if we do them monthly (if they’re weekly, this isn’t such an issue). That way, you don’t have the problem of someone missing the arduino workshop, having to wait three months for it to come around again, and forgetting about the whole thing in the process.
• Did I mention how much I love this idea? I do.