In today’s global climate, education in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) initiatives is more important than ever. The goal of the SparkFun National Tour is to promote electronics education across the US - helping our teachers and educators make electronics part of their everyday curriculum. If we reach our $150,000 goal, SparkFun will complete a nationwide tour stopping in all 50 states to teach electronics in a fun, approachable and relevant way.
We are keeping track of where donations are coming from to help us plan our tour. Here's a map of all the money raised so far by state:
Where we've been featured:
What in the world are you doing?
For every $3,000 raised, a team of highly trained instructors will travel to your state (possibly your city) and donate a SparkFun Inventor's Kit Lab Pack - $1,250 worth of tools and equipment. During their stay they will host an all day class to train the teachers and educators on electronics. We’ll show them how this new technology can fulfill multiple state and federal teaching standards (including STEM and STEAM initiatives). We're capable of doing up to 300 stops on this tour, if the KickStarter community helps us get there!
It’s amazing what has changed in embedded electronics in the past decade. You no longer need a degree in engineering to create game-changing devices to help with everyday problems. We’ve launched our education initiative through learn.sparkfun.com and taught hundreds of elementary, middle, and high school students about modern electronics, but we want more! Our goal with this Kickstarter is to bring the benefits of this emerging field to every state across the US.
We’re going to raise $150,000 to fund a tour across each and every state in the union and we need your help! Do you know a student, teacher or librarian? Please consider backing this Kickstarter and help get new electronics into their library or classroom.
Why in the world are you doing this?
Since SparkFun opened its doors 10 years ago, we’ve been dedicated to showing people how they can use DIY electronics to create the projects of their dreams. We have a strong passion for education and we want to show the world how fun learning electronics can be. We believe we can have a profound impact on the educational system - needless to say, we’re excited!
Who are you?
SparkFun is a privately held, 10 year-old company started by a college student in his bedroom. We're now 140 people strong! We've worked hard to get to where we are today without external investors or government assistance. We're not doing this Kickstarter for the money - we will break even on nearly every city we visit. We're doing this because we are very passionate about helping teachers and students learn the tools to help them become inspired as they move forward with their education.
So, can you pull this off?
Short answer: Absolutely. SparkFun Electronics has manufactured over 3 million electronic kits and products in its 10 year history, right here in Boulder, Colorado (come take the tour!). Yeah, we build stuff in the U.S. Crazy, huh?
We are no fool in the Kickstarter world - we successfully designed, produced and delivered (on time!) the 11,518 boards for the popular MaKey MaKey Kickstarter. Fulfilling the rewards for all of our backers will be achievable using our existing robust supply chain.
And we’re no strangers to teaching, either. Our Education department, launched in 2011, has been generating curriculum, teaching hundreds of live classes, and teaching tens of thousands of people about electronics through online tutorials and videos. We’ve already completed two multi-city educational tours - one down the east coast and one up the west coast. This Kickstarter will give us the fuel to light this fire on the national level! By capping the stops at 300 we are realistically thinking about how to have the most successful tour possible.
What’s with the map?
We wanted to see - in real-time during the campaign - where our backers were coming from. So we designed a system that sends backers a unique link to a page on SparkFun.com where they can tell us which state they'd most like their funds to go toward supporting. It's these selections - made official with the KickStarter survey if our project is funded - that will help us decide where we go! SparkFun has been creating good relationships with schools around the country. We want your feedback on who else we should talk to. Ultimately, we will create the tour based on a mix of feedback, location, and need.
During the campaign, however, we aggregate state-level selections by backers into a map that updates regularly above (or in real-time on SparkFun.com). Keep an eye on the map to get a feel for where the national tour may end up spending a lot of time!
More details on backing rewards
And even more details below!
$35 - It wouldn't be a KickStarter campaign without a shirt. This commemorative SparkFun National Tour T-Shirt will only be available through this campaign and is made of a soft, high quality tri-blend. The front displays the official seal of the SparkFun Electronics 2013 National Tour and the back shows a tastefully understated SparkFun logo.
$75 - Simon Says is the popular four-color memory game from our childhood. The Learn to Solder Simon Says is an educational kit that includes all the tools you need to learn how to solder! When assembled you'll have a fully functional game to accompany your new skills.
$150 - The SparkFun Inventor’s Kit (SIK) is a kit that we've sold for years. Based on the popular Arduino software, the kit includes basic electronic components, the RedBoard microcontroller development board, breadboard, wires, and the very important full-color 80-page guide. This special edition SIK - available only through this KickStarter campaign - includes the new RedBoard from SparkFun, a 2x16 parallel LCD and a triple-axis accelerometer breakout board!
$2,500 - You get to tell us where to go! For each $3,000 collectively raised, we will add a stop on the tour, up to 300 stops. We'll never get everyone to agree so backers vote by state where they'd like us to go. But for $2,500 you can fund a visit entirely on your own, so you can tell us exactly where to go. This is great if you have the money, the drive, and a specific school, library, or hackerspace in mind!
Risks and challenges
For our backing level awards we may need to build and ship hundreds (perhaps thousands?) of the Learn to Solder Simon Says and SparkFun Inventor's Kits. These are kits currently in production, with only minor modifications needed for the National Tour Kickstarter campaign. With a full-scale production, kitting, and warehouse floors capable of producing and shipping over 3000 orders a week all over the world, we believe we can handle an addition of many thousands of kits without too much stress on our current infrastructure (you really should come check out the madness at our facilities).
What about the tour itself? We’ve completed two previous tours - one on the west coast, one on the east coast. These smaller tours taught us lessons and gave us a starting point for our budget numbers. We are confident we can equip, staff, and orchestrate a large tour. Our greatest challenge is not burning out the great people that make up SparkFun. We’ve created tentative plans to split the national tour into smaller, 6-day on / 4 day-off segments where support staff can be rotated out for rest and relaxation.
What about the people teaching the courses? SparkFun has been training staff and gaining experience teaching at home and abroad since 2007. We’re planning on adding Educational Outreach Coordinators, more vehicles, and some dedicated project managers to oversee everything. Additionally, we plan to work with local colleges to establish a for-credit internship for undergraduate students who can spend a semester working on the tour. We’ve got a large pool of educators excited to hit the road. These folks will all have the opportunity to spend 2 weeks at a time out on the road helping execute the national tour, ensuring a rich mix of professional educators, professional SparkFunners, and up-and-coming students at every stop.
We are specifically capping the tour to 300 stops. We’re not sure if we’ll come anywhere close to this limit, but we’re cognizant of the stress this tour will put on our people and the need to complete the tour in a sensible amount of time (we’re planning on less than a year). We realize the rewards on a Kickstarter should be as exciting as the campaign itself. So in the unlikely event that we top out at 300 stops (an average of six per state!) we will keep the backing rewards available, but we will not add any additional stops. We will use any excess funds to enhance each stop along the tour. This can be done by investing in better RVs for our travelling crew, more thorough training and better pay for our outreach coordinators, and more investment in continually improving the curriculum that accompanies each Lab Pack in the classroom.
What about the numbers? We’ve carefully structured this Kickstarter to be sustainable. $3,000 per stop will cover the cost of fuel, vehicles, food, insurance, shelter and most importantly people’s wages and the parts donated to the schools. We are confident in our planning and our budget. SparkFun will do about $27 million in revenue in 2012 and we're passionate about education and dedicated to pulling off this national tour. Covering extra costs from the SparkFun coffers is an acceptable emergency plan because to us this is an investment in the future of our company and of our country. We hope to build a generation of informed, intelligent electronics enthusiasts one classroom at a time, and time will tell if our investment pays off.
The whole of SparkFun is dedicated to this massive undertaking. Please help boost our passion for sharing by backing this endeavor.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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