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The Kickstarter-funded SparkTruck has completed its 15,323 mile roadtrip. Now it’s time to share the story through a short documentary.
146 backers pledged $8,950 to help bring this project to life.

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SparkTruck: stories from a cross-country maker journey project video thumbnail
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$8,950

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SparkTruck Workshop in Aspen, CO.
SparkTruck Workshop in Aspen, CO.

First Things First: What is SparkTruck?

SparkTruck is a big red truck filled with cutting-edge maker tools that goes from school to school, bringing the joy of making back to kids. It’s full of 21st century tools like a laser cutter and 3D printers, and old-school tools like glue-guns and hammers.

SparkTruck runs hands-on workshops with elementary and middle school students; promotes design thinking as a problem solving skill; and, encourages kids to find their inner maker. You can read more about the project on its old Kickstarter page (when it was still called SparkLab) or on its current website.

SparkTruck is currently teaching a class at the Stanford d.school to prepare the truck and a new crew for another summer road trip.

Inside the truck with the laser cutter; and, SparkTruck's road map.
Inside the truck with the laser cutter; and, SparkTruck's road map.

 Now, About the Film

At the end; 15,323 miles, 33 states, and 2,673 students add up to one thing: a whole a lot of stories. Luckily, Didi, the designated documentarian of the team, was there to capture many moments of the trip. So far, a small portion of this 100-hours of footage has been edited into short videos for the SparkTruck blog; but, there is a lot more to be shared.

The short documentary will mainly focus on the journey of the SparkTruck, and provide a behind-the-scenes look at the struggles, discoveries, and achievements of the SparkTeam as they share their passion for hands-on learning. While the team traveled the country teaching students about design and making, they were also doing a lot of learning themselves. The main purpose of documenting and sharing this experience is to share this iterative learning process with others, and inspire them to take action towards reaching their own goals, no matter their size.

Didi filming at Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA.
Didi filming at Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA.

Why a Short Documentary?
In the age of laptops, tablets, and smart phones shorter videos are the easiest to watch and share, especially for the younger audiences. In order to reach out to many viewers in an effective way, we want to keep the account of our journey brief and engaging. Once finished, the film will be available on the new SparkTruck website for free streaming.

And also a book!
There are way too many memories and moments to fit in a short documentary, so we’d like to bring some of our favorite blog posts to life with engaging short videos, and slide shows in the form of an e-book. Once finished, the book will be available for digital download, as well as for print orders as a coffee table book.

Why Does It Matter?
When we first started this project, we didn’t know too much about how the education system worked. All we knew was that while the standardized system of learning worked well for some students, many other kids (and teachers) found rigid standards and the mentality of “teaching to the test” to be uninspiring and not so fun.

After spending a couple months hanging out at schools, we found that this top-down, “check these boxes” learning system had conditioned kids to fear being “wrong,” and created an environment of learned helplessness. We want to help change that. We want to make sure that fun, open-ended opportunities are made available to kids as they move through school and life because this is what helps kids get over their fear of failure and grow confidence in their abilities to be creative and work through tough problems.

We’ve realized that in order to have more of a sustained impact, this summer road trip need to just be the beginning of a concerted effort to get these experiences and ideas to more communities. As the SparkTruck continues its journey, we hope to reach out to more students, teachers, parents, and policy makers through our documentary, and help spark a larger conversation about 21st century education.

A Word from the Filmmaker
You can only imagine how excited I was when Eugene and Jason told me they wanted to have someone on board at SparkTruck to film and photograph. I knew something they didn't quite know then: I was the documentarian they were looking for. From the first meeting on I was a member of the team, which is a little weird for a filmmaker because I am mostly accustomed to stand a step away, observe, and ask questions rather than become an active participant. During the four months we were on the road, I ended up striping a lot of wires, driving many many hours, and answering countless questions that I didn't quite know the answers for. I learned to resist the temptation of helping a kid who's struggling to tape a pompom on a popsicle stick. My experience as a Sparkee will give a unique perspective and reflexivity to the film I'm editing. I'm committed to share my newly acquired perspective on creativity, problem solving, and hands-on learning to expand the discussion on these topics. I do not intent this to be a promotional video for SparkTruck, or a goofy road trip chronicle. I want it to be fun to watch, but also constructive, meaningful, and inspiring. Needless to say I need your help, and I appreciate your support greatly.

After a workshop.
After a workshop.

And, the Money is For?
Currently, we are in the process of editing. Bringing 100-hours of footage down to a short documentary and an e-book takes a lot of time and resources. Some of the post-production costs include music, animation (if you have a road trip map, you should animate it, right?), titles, color correction, and sound mixing. There is also the cost of building and maintaining a web site and promoting the film and the book.

Remember creating momentum upfront is the key to reach our funding goal, so donate early! If we exceed our goal, we’ll be able to create more eye-popping animations, a slicker website, and ultimately reach more people with our important message.

What Else Can You Do?
Donating is a great way to support our project, but there are other ways you can help. Share it with friends, post and re-post it on Facebook, tweet it, blog it, and most importantly, take action.

Which Vibrobot are You?

(In our Vibrobots workshop, we ask kids to brainstorm animals that live on land and animals that live on water; then, they pick one from each list, mash them together, and built these incredible creatures.)

Choose your pledge amount to find out which Vibrobot you are!
Choose your pledge amount to find out which Vibrobot you are!

Check-out SparkTruck's Media Buzz:

Finally, Introducing the SparkTeam

Left to right: Duygu Erucman, Eugene Korsunskiy, Jason Chua, Rachel Star.
Left to right: Duygu Erucman, Eugene Korsunskiy, Jason Chua, Rachel Star.

Duygu (Didi) Eruçman grew up watching travel shows on TV in her home country of Turkey and she believes these programs are the hidden inspiration behind her career as a documentary filmmaker. So far, she has directed and edited six short documentaries, which have screened at many film festivals around the world. Didi loves dogs, traveling, and postmodern literature. She holds a BA in Political Science from Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey, and an MFA in Documentary Film and Video from Stanford University. For more information on her work visit Duygu's website.

Eugene Korsunskiy is a big fan of dessert. The last time he made a trip across the United States, it was on a bicycle, yet he still inexplicably gained 10 pounds along the way. He’s worked on giant LED sculptures for Jenny Holzer, taught design thinking to corporate executives, and once designed and ran a class on sketchbooking just so he could get a free Moleskine. Eugene holds a BA in Art and Art History from Williams College, and an MFA in Design from Stanford University.

Jason Chua is a designer, maker, and explorer of new ideas. According to his mother, he learned to read by staring at cars and road signs from his car seat, and he has been fascinated by moving vehicles ever since. Jason has built robots, designed light sculptures, and taught classes in math, branding, and happiness psychology (not all at one time) at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, and at the d.school. He holds a MS in Mechanical Engineering and a BS in Product Design from Stanford University.

Rachel Star loves to imagine, create, and explore. At her high school, she turned a staircase into a life-size piano (think Tom Hank’s movie, BIG). Since then she has designed a wheelchair attachment for patients at The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, safer baby products for Kid’s in Danger, and helped teach innovation and design at Nueva Summer. She is currently studying Manufacturing & Design Engineering and Psychology at Northwestern University.

Risks and challenges

Probably, what makes documentaries exciting, both for the filmmakers and the audience, is their unpredictable nature. When making a documentary film there should be always room for the unexpected. That being said, we can safely assume that the worst part of the process is behind us. We have all of our footage, releases, and a willing editor; now, it's just a matter of time – and money.

The biggest challenge of the project is to craft a story that reflects all the different aspects of SparkTruck. Therefore, the final film might be different than the synopsis you just read, but we know that it will be true to SparkTruck experience. Another challenge is time. Editing is a very time-consuming, at times tedious process. It might take longer than we thought to tell the perfect SparkTruck story. However, we really want to have it ready by beginning of the summer when the new SparkTeam is hitting the road.

Finally, we cannot forget the e-book, because this is the very fist e-book that we are preparing, and we might need a little time and some beginner’s luck. But again, we already have everything we need to create a great book: our blog posts, photos, and the videos. We are very excited, aren't you?

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    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    You are a CROG (a dog and a dolphin, see image I). You will have your name on our Facebook page as a supporter, and you will receive a high resolution image from the film.

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    You are a CEEL (a cat and an eel, see image II). You will have your name on our webpage and our Facebook page as a supporter. You will receive a digital copy of the film along with a very special tip from Eugene and Jason to find your inner-maker.

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    You are a CRAFFE (a crab and a giraffe, see image III). You will have your name on our webpage and our Facebook page as a supporter. We will mail you the film's postcard with a special note from the director. You will receive the e-book for ipad and a digital copy of the film.

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    Pledge $45 or more About $45

    You are a BUTTERCHIN (a butterfly and a sea urchin, see image IV). You will have your name on our webpage and our Facebook page as a supporter. We will mail you a SparkTruck bumper sticker and film's postcard with a special note from the director. Also, you will receive the e-book for ipad and a DVD copy of the film signed by the SparkTeam.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    You are a PUFF-LAMB (a pufferfish and a lamb, see image V). You will have a thank you credit in the film. You will also receive everything from the $45 category plus a compilation DVD of the director's short documentaries.

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    You are a BIRDFISH (a bird and a swordfish, see image VI). You will have a thank you credit in the film. You will also receive everything from the $45 category plus a compilation DVD of the director's short documentaries and a printed version of the book.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    You are a LIZALE (a lizard and a whale, see image VII). You will have a special thanks credit in the film and we will invite you to the premier of the film in the Bay Area (travel not included). We will give you a DVD copy of the film signed by the SparkTeam, both electronic and printed versions of the book, and a signed compilation DVD of the director's short documentaries. Also, the director of the film will make a short video featuring something you designed and/or build (only in the Bay Area).

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    You are a BEARAPUS (a bear and a hippopotamus, see image VIII), and you have an associate producer credit in the film! Of course you are invited to the premier of the film in the Bay Area (travel not included). But, if you can't make it no worries, we will help you organize a screening in your town. We will give you a DVD copy of the film signed by the SparkTeam, both electronic and printed versions of the book, and a signed compilation DVD of the director's short documentaries. Also, the director of the film will make a short video featuring something you designed and/or build (only in the Bay Area).

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Funding period

- (30 days)