About this project
One Kit Each Month
The Monthly Make-It is a project-kit subscription program designed to get people making, building, and exploring! Each kit contains all the parts you need to complete a number of projects as well as step-by-step instructions and other informational material. Each month we'll ship a new box of projects, and each month you can open it and build something awesome!
Who We Are
Parts and Crafts is a kid makerspace and community workshop in Somerville MA. Founded in 2009, we were part of the first generation of youth makerspaces. Through our programs - camp, school alternative, afterschool, open shop - we try to ensure that all of the kids in our community have access to the tools, resources, and expertise they need to turn their ideas into real things.
We've spent the last seven years developing a range of projects to get kids building, crafting, and tinkering. We're taking some of our favorites and turning them into kits that you can put together at home, at your kitchen table, or in your classroom.
What's in a Box?
Each box will contain one major project and a handful of smaller ones demonstrating an idea or concept in a hands-on, experiential way. Kits will include real-world components with clear, step-by-step instructions designed for kids to follow.
You might get a handful of simple LED circuits -- design a switch for your flashlight, build your own lightsaber, make an LED blink! Another kit might have a set of optics projects -- a kaleidoscope and a simple spectrometer. Each project is kid-tested and uses real-world tools and materials to get people building, crafting, and making.
Our workshop is located in a city literally up the street from some of the biggest names in tech -- Google, Microsoft, MIT -- but where 64% of kids are eligible for free and reduced-cost lunch. Despite a lot of effort (and progress) in the tech industry, the maker movement, and others, the benefits of technology remain unevenly distributed while project-based, maker-style education is still a luxury many kids can't afford.
Affordability and accessibility are among our highest priorities at Parts and Crafts. We run all of our major programming on a sliding-scale with as many free slots as we can afford, and every Saturday we have free, drop-in open-shop hours for anyone who wants to use our tools and make something with us. We work regularly with local partners and area schools to bring our projects to as many kids as possible.
As we’ve grown and gotten better at outreach, we've learned that sliding-scale on its own cannot raise enough money to make our programs affordable and sustainable. Building off last year’s One Lightsaber Per Child Project, The Monthly Make-It is another way that we can support our outreach and accessibility efforts.
I'll Just Build It Myself, Thanks
Awesome -- we'd love to help! These projects themselves are not just “ours” - many of these are canonical "getting started" projects that have been kicking around for decades. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to actually get started.
To help you out, we will be documenting the design and manufacturing process for each kit and making the following things available under a Creative Commons ShareAlike License:
- How to build it -- both as a document and as an instructional video
- How it works -- a brief explanation of concepts behind the projects
- Where/how you can get the parts in the kit
- How to manufacture any custom pieces
- Any other important notes we have on the design
Our kits are an economical and convenient way for you to get all of the parts for the projects in one place. By buying off-the-shelf materials and components in bulk, our cost per kit is significantly lower than it would be for an individual attempting to produce a single kit -- in our experience, the cost of a single kit from us is comparable to, if not cheaper than, the cost of purchasing all of the materials separately yourself.
What Will The Kits Be?
- LEDs and Switching: Lightsaber, Flashlight, DIY Reed Switch
- Sounds: Audio Conductivity Sensor, “Box of Noise”, DIY Speaker
- Motors: Make a Motor, Make a Motorcar, Make a Dynamo
- Simple “Bots”: Mousebot + Bristlebot
- Locks: Lego Pin-Tumbler Lock, Cardboard Combination Lock
- Launching Inventions: Water Bottle Rockets, Marshmallow launcher
- Optics: Kaleidoscope, Infinity Mirror
- Reflection and Refraction: Edge Lighting, Spectrometry
- Hydraulics: Water Cannon, Robot Arm
- Puppetry: Puppets + Animatronics
- How It Works: Takeapart and Repurpose
- Catapults: Tiny, Small, Medium
Designed With Teachers in Mind
Every kit will contain a “for teachers” section with ideas about how these projects can be integrated into a school curriculum with explicit references to the common core standards. After individual kits are released, we will sell "classroom sets" in our store at a discount. Furthermore, we hope that, by making the kits entirely open-source, educators and youth community leaders will be able to use our kits as a springboard for developing affordable classroom-scale projects at any budget.
DIY: Better Together
We’re a small, scrappy, community-supported group of enthusiastic teachers and builders. We are incredibly excited about sharing our work, but we can't do it without you. Converting one of our projects into a really good kit is a very large undertaking and we don’t have the up-front resources to do it on our own.
Our goal isn't simply to sell kits; it's to use these kits to build an open-source library of cool things to make and do. We hope to provide a useful resource for new makers to develop the skills - and confidence! - to start tinkering on their own. We’re eagerly looking forward to seeing your modifications and improvements!
Didn't You Do This Before?
We ran a Kickstarter for this very project about 5 years ago, calling it “Community Supported Education” (modeled on the idea of a CSA farmshare). It went really well, in many ways — we raised a modest sum of money (around $10,000 all told) which we used to, well, kick-start some of our project development as well as our nascent workshop programs.
It’s a project that we abandoned after that first run because we couldn’t keep up with producing monthly kits while starting and growing our physical space and its attached programs. Now that our space is up and running, we're excited to return to kits as a possible way to fund open-source, educational kit R&D and project development.
Where Does the Money Go?
One third goes to materials. After a fair amount of research, and some conversation with other DIY/open-hardware kit developers, we decided that the correct markup for kit manufacture was something like 2 to 2.5 times the “true cost” of manufacturing -- i.e. materials+labor. This means that cost of materials for a $25 kit will be about $8.00 for us.
One third goes to the One Lightsaber Per Child Project, which last year helped to fund over 100 free and reduced cost spots for our year-round programs. Kit sales directly support work with local partner organizations -- the Welcome Project, The Public Lab, Somerville Community Corporation, Freedom Connexion, Somerville Public Schools, and others. Above all, they fund sliding scale and scholarships, which are an essential tool for keeping our programs affordable and accessible for families in our wider community.
The rest goes to general operating expenses -- staffing, making the kits, research and development, overhead for our space, outreach and everything else. Your contribution will help us sustain and expand our programming and will help keep Parts and Crafts solvent in the long run! We're a small, primarily self-funded community organization dedicated to education and accessibility, and your support absolutely makes a difference in our ability to operate and grow.
Thank You for Your Support!
We’re looking forward to sharing our work, sending out kits and seeing the cool things you make with them, but we need your help to make it happen! The Monthly Make-It will help us keep our workshop open, keep our projects accessible, and help us grow our online resources to better support makers just like you. We hope you'll be a part of it!
Risks and challenges
Design, documentation, outreach, promotion
- Good kits need to be buildable but not-too-easy, and interesting enough to be worth building. We've been building cool projects with kids in our programs for almost 7 years now -- we have a lot of really good go-to projects, as well as solid intuitions about how to convert them into things that people can build at home.
- Documenting is one of the most exciting challenges that this project offers us. We have lots of experience teaching people how to build the things we'll be shipping out, but most of that experience is through in-person workshops. Written and visual communication of instructions is a difficult, different problem, and we'll be testing our written instructions in workshops and on students and friends.
- Packing and shipping. This requires a lot of logistics and coordination -- making sure the parts are correct, and available/produceable at the right time. We've been making and shipping lightsaber kits for the last year, so we have a pretty good handle on what this process looks like and have pretty effectively laid the groundwork to do this at scale.
- Market saturation. There are lots of cool STEM/STEAM/Maker kits for kids. What makes ours different? All too often, STEM-type kits focus on the product, rather than the process. They use special, expensive-to-make, and proprietary components and connectors that aren't readily available or reproducible. The products of these kits can be amazing but the process feels disempowering -- sure, you made something cool, but you don't come away feeling like it's really yours, or that you could make it yourself.
All of our kits will be built from components that resemble widely used, off-the-shelf components and materials as much as possible, and the manufacturing and modifying of them that we do will be straightforward, visible, and well-documented. We think that there is tremendous value in giving kids projects that start with these kinds of basic materials and components.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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