A big red truck filled with cutting-edge maker tools that goes from school to school, bringing the joy of building back to kids.
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We're a group of Stanford d.school students passionate about making, education and technology. For the past six months, we've talked with teachers, students, and other experts about hands-on learning. We were shocked to find that due to tight budgets and strict testing requirements, many schools don't have the flexibility or equipment to support hands-on building.
Why this matters:
Student engagement is one of the best predictors of academic success, and there are few things more engaging than designing and building something with your hands. Education leaders like Sir Ken Robinson and Salman Khan have called for more creative and integrated projects in schools, but many districts just don't have the resources or space to support these kinds of activities.
With your help, we'll find and outfit a delivery truck with cutting-edge maker tools and software (like laser cutters, 3D printers, and hand tools) and drive from school to school bringing teachers and students the resources and equipment they need to create engaging, educational activities. We'll use our expertise in making, education and technology to help teachers come up with creative ways to teach their curriculum, and enable them to bring more excitement into their classrooms.
UPDATE: We have a truck (for now)!!! HUUUGE THANK YOU to Matt Hengehold of Hengehold Trucks for letting us borrow one of his 11' step vans until the end of June! We're excited to be able to drive around to different schools right away, while we wait for funding to get a permanent truck of our own.
What you're helping us get:
- 16' step van
- laser cutter
- 3D printer
- auxiliary generator
- vinyl cutter
- hand tools
- much much more!
What people are saying:
All along our journey, we've been encouraged by the support we've received from teachers, students, parents and makers. Here's some of what we've heard so far:
"It's really exciting to see you bringing this creative confidence back to the classroom... this is the kind of learning that really sticks with kids."
- David Kelley, Founder of IDEO
"I love the truck. This is a great way to bring the tools and materials for making to more young makers."
- Dale Dougherty, Founding editor of MAKE Magazine
"This is an incredibly cool idea – getting these tools into the hands of kids!"
- Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk and fellow Maker
"Having a resource like this would be so empowering to teachers and students!"
- Marcy Barton, 5th grade teacher and education pioneer
"My favorite part of your visit is that I can finally build something for myself and I finally became an inventor."
- Brian, 6th-grader
We're strong believers in scalability and impact. Our ultimate goal is to have permanent facilities installed in schools, prepackaged units that PTAs can purchase, and online resources that let people replicate the facilites and activities we're developing.
For us, the truck is a prototype and a way to inspire a larger movement towards getting making back into more schools. SparkLab is as much a project about awareness as it is about our one truck. We're hoping that by having a singular, "sticky" story (at least to begin with), we can touch more schools personally than a single install would. At the same time, we'll use the truck as a platform in which to try out our ideas about exactly what kinds of materials/tools/space layout would work the best, and once we have something that we're sure is great, it's off to the races with mass distribution!
We've run a few workshops so far and have reached upwards of 200 students in the past month alone! You can take a look at some pictures and postcards we've gotten from our workshops so far in Update 4 in the "Updates" section.
We've run pre- and post-visit affective evaluations to determine attitude changes in our participants, and we've found that students were thrilled to learn that they could build anything with a few simple tools and a lot of imagination. Even more exciting, we found that students were far more likely to consider themselves builders after our visit than before we came.