[Cultural Policy Bulletin Vol.6] Maker Culture:Growing and Helping Together
Cultural Policy Bulletin Vol. 6
Reporter JUNG Hee, Make: Korea Team Manager
As the origin of the term “maker,” makerspaces in the US have carried out a variety of dynamic maker activities. For the special interview of GyeongGi Cultural Foundation’s Cultural Policy Bulletin Vol. 6, we met with those running the Bay Area Discovery Museum and Hacker Dojo, America’s representative makerspaces that lead meaningful activities in public and for-profit sectors. Let us listen to their organizations’ current state, direction and goals.
Interview with Sarah LEE
Research and Advisory Associate, Center for Childhood Creativity at the Bay Area Discovery Museum
1. Tell us a little bit about the Center for Childhood Creativity and the Bay Area Discovery Museum.
The Center for Childhood Creativity (CCC) is the research and advisory division of the Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADM). BADM is a children’s museum in Sausalito, California, where kids ages 0-10 engage in playful exploration. Throughout our 7.5 acres of indoor and outdoor space, adults find endless opportunities to engage children in activities and exhibits that are fun and creative, but also thoughtfully designed.
2. How is the Bay Area Discovery Museum different from a traditional museum?
When people hear the word “museum” they typically think of a space where artifacts (such as works of art or dinosaur bones) are cared for, restored, and left on display. These artifacts are for the public to see and appreciate, but not to touch or manipulate. In contrast, BADM is a place where children and families are encouraged to touch, explore, and make a mess. It is a place for experiential learning. So, rather than reading a lot of detailed descriptions, visitors learn by experiencing things with their senses.
3. What are the exhibitions or activities that show the heart of museum?
One exhibit that showcases the museum’s educational philosophy is Imagination Playground, a series of large, blue foam building blocks, ramps, tubes, and balls. This exhibit is located in the center of the museum in a large, open area. Children can design various structures, collaborate with others to solve problems, and experiment with their design by creating multiple iterations. This exhibit is “open-ended,” meaning there is no one correct way for children and adults to participate. With no set of instructions telling children what to build or how to build it, “child-directed” play is central to Imagination Playground.
To see the location of our exhibits, a PDF file of our museum map is available on our website: https://bayareadiscoverymuseum.org/visit/museum-map/
Bay Area Discovery Museum
4. The museum has a very specific target, children ages 0-10. What is the museum’s mission and how is the design of the museum influenced by the age of the target audience?
Our mission is to transform research into early learning experiences that inspire creative problem solving. Our focus on children ages 0-10 influences our space in many ways. Throughout the museum, visitors can find exhibit spaces and programs designed for specific stages in children’s development. BADM’s Tot Spot, an exhibit designed for children 42 inches tall and under, is a safe space for little ones who are just learning to crawl or walk to explore new interests, take risks, and play freely. In BADM’s Fab Lab, the world’s first digital fabrication lab designed for early childhood, children ages 6 and up utilize high and low-tech tools, like 3-D printers and hand tools, to explore the engineering design process. We recently updated the exhibit to include spaces where children under the age of 6 can explore when accompanied closely by their adult. In all of our spaces, we modify the height of the furniture and exhibits to create an age-appropriate environment for children ages 0-10.
5. How is BADM different from other institutions, maker spaces, or other discovery museums (e.g., Exploratorium) that children go to at that age?
One of the reasons BADM is so unique is our focus on children ages 0-10. Research shows the first decade of life is a period of time where children develop skills that are critical to their success later in life. Our exhibits and experiences are research-backed and designed specifically to encourage all children to discover and grow their natural curiosity for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts.
6. How are the experiences from visitors’ perspectives? And what is status in general regarding visitors (how many visitors, are they satisfied, etc.)?
Each year, 340,000 people visit the museum. Through various forms of feedback (e.g., on-site comment cards, online reviews, surveys, emails, or phone calls), we’ve found a majority of our visitors leave positive comments. Here are some testimonials from our visitors:
Great experience, everyone is friendly. Great job managing kids activities.
This is the greatest museum for kids in the USA. It is sweet, innocent, educational with a wonderful staff. We absolutely love it and would go every day if we could.
I love all the open-ended play & learning opportunities at BADM! My favorite place for the kids to come to have fun.
7. What are your ultimate goals that you want to achieve with visitors?
BADM has seven learning goals (i.e., a thinking skill, behavior, or strategy that children can begin to learn or develop throughout their time at BADM), developed by the leaders from the CCC:
Come Up with Ideas and Try Them Out Make Thoughtful Decisions
Take Risks and Persist Through Challenge
Learn to Collaborate
Build STEM Knowledge
All BADM activities are designed to address these learning goals in different ways. For example, if children and adults participate in one of BADM’s daily programs, they will have the opportunity to engage with at least one learning goal. Each program is accompanied by signage containing examples of how adults can support their child’s learning and explore the learning goal together.
8. What do you find difficult running the museum? Anything from better experiences to financial, or any advice for fellow museum or maker space organizers will be appreciated.
Our location is one of our greatest assets, but can also be one of our greatest challenges. We are located in a national park that is difficult to get to using public transit. This means connecting with our local community is not without challenges. Through various off-site experiences, we bring BADM to local schools, libraries, and community centers throughout the area.
As with many non-profit organizations, fundraising is always a concern. We need to continually raise funds in order to offset the cost of running the museum while also working to provide programs at a free or reduced cost to the communities and children that don’t have regular access to BADM experiences.
9. Tell us more about learning experiences for children outside of school? Why they matter and how they are now and for the future.
Increasingly, educators, parents, and policymakers are considering how informal learning spaces (including museums, libraries, afterschool clubs, etc.) can complement and deepen children’s education. This is particularly important in the early years (ages 5-8) when children only spend 15 percent of their waking time in a classroom setting. When you consider that many children do not even have access to formal schooling until age 5, the importance of informal learning experiences becomes even greater. If we want to strengthen the foundation for children’s lifelong thinking skills, we must consider experiences both inside and outside of school.
Interview with Edward Choudhry
Executive Director of the Hacker Dojo
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and Hacker Dojo.
My name is Edward Choudhry. I am the Executive Director of the Hacker Dojo, a 501c3 non-profit. I have been a member for over 4 years, former Chairman of Board of Directors. I have recently become E.D to help drive new programs and initiatives for the Hacker Dojo. I originally came here looking for technical co-founders for my startup Product Blast and actually started to teach my self how to code. I was able to gather the skills to build an end to end program that also incorporated hardware as well. I would have not been able to do this without the Dojo and the members here who have helped me expand my knowledge and skills along the way. The Hacker Dojo was established in 2009. It dates back to origins since 2001, where it started as a popular meet up group called Super Happy Dev House. Today, we are community of almost 300 members and an alum of over 5,000 who love technology, science and building cool things. We host many different types of events as well as workshops. You can check out events.hackerdojo.com to see the latest events. We have a maker space with laser cutter, tools, CNC router and 3d printer. Majority of our space is used for co-working and collaboration. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week which is popular with our international crowd.
2. What are the characteristics of the space? How do you explain your group to other people? What's the spirit?
We have an open format that allows teams to engage one another. We also have areas sectioned off for particular focus such as our electronics corner and play lounge. There are 3 different sized event rooms that are also used as collaboration space when there are no events happening at the time.
We explain ourselves as a community of makers, dreamers, developers and tech lovers. We help one another to grow and better ourselves in technology. We hack for good, move fast and always spread innovation. Number one rule in Hacker Dojo is to be excellent to each other and help when you can.
3. It is rare to find co-working space open for 24/7(only if it is for members). How does that work? How members and organizers feel about and deal with it?
There is great challenge when staying open 24/7. Most members help keep the dojo clean and safe, it eliminates a lot of issue. We have volunteers participate in helping new guest as well.
Our guest hours are 10am-9pm. Outside of these times we have a RFID system that only allows members to access the space. Guest are welcome, if accompanied with member. Members love the fact they can come here anytime.
4. Seems like Hacker Dojo is a tech-savvy community. What is atmosphere like? A shared garage space of Silicon Valley, perhaps?
Yes, we love everything Tech related! Recent visitors have commented when they visit, they feel a cool open vibe and an entrepreneurial spirit that feels motivating. There is always some one here on their computer, playing ping pong, having a cup of coffee (which we supply unlimited amount :) tinkering away in the maker space. I would say, we are a step up from a garage. I would say a fun place between garage and R&D Lab, with event space.
5. Maker space inside Dojo, members use them frequently?
Maker space does get used frequently. We have two sections. One is the Electronics Corner and the Maker space. You will always find someone working in there.
6. What can be the big difference of Hacker Dojo? What is different from other hacker spaces, maker spaces, or co-working spaces?
I think the biggest difference for us is that we serve many with events, maker space and office all in one. It will be hard to find a place that you can work out of 24/7, build a physical prototype and host a launch party or user test group all in one place. Members can also attend any event for free. Our maker space does not offer as much in regards to focusing on wood and metal but we provide enough resources to build your prototype. We fall in the area of servicing for educational, hobbyist and seed stage startups. We do have other maker spaces we can recommend if someone who is looking for production level requirements. The driving force between us and other is our community. We have experts in many fields that are open to helping others.
7. How are the experiences from visitors/members perspectives? And what is status in general regarding them(how many visitors and members, are they satisfied, etc.)?
Visitors are always amazed when they discover us. This is how we get new members. It usually starts with a friend inviting them or attending an event. Everyone has an enriching experience when they come here which leads them to coming back or referring others. As mentioned we have almost 300 members and even more visitors coming through the doors everyday.
8. What are your ultimate goals that you want to achieve with members? Are you on right track to achieve them?
We want to expand our services. We hope to acquire our own building in the next couple years. This will allow membership fees to go directly to better programs vs paying just for rent. With more programs, members can be provided the resources to enhance their skill set, get jobs at the top tech companies here in Silicon Valley or build their dream. We have had many startups successfully exit and hope to nurture more to build great enterprises.
9. What do you find difficult running the space and community? Anything from better experiences to financial, or any advice for fellow museum or maker space organizers will appreciated.
It is hard to service everyone with different needs. It requires much resources. For example: we would love to grow our maker space but that takes a great amount of finance and personnel for proper training and matinanace. Community takes a lot of energy to nurture. It can not be done by just one or few. A recommendation for others is to make sure there is a moral compass for your community, a shared goal, a sense of fulfillment to drive the heart of the community, for without it, it will not exist. Keep the heart of your community pumping! Be creative on how to nurture the community.
10. Tell us more about Hacker spirit and how they are important now and for the future.
The hacker spirit drives in to one reoccurring theme:
There is something I need to build quickly whether its to solve a problem or it just has not been done before. I don't necessarily have everything required to build it but I will find a way to get it done. I will break down the problem or the complexity of the build, parse it out to minor builds and piece together the solution. Every step of the way, I will acquire a new set of skills. After I have built the solution, I am 10x more skilled. Hackers are constantly challenging themselves to up their skill level or complete projects most efficiently if its a known platform. This driving force is what makes people challenge the norm and is imperative for technological advancement of the future.
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@JUNG Hee @Sarah LEE @Edward Choudhry
Writer/ GyeongGi Cultural Foundation
About/ Everything about the GyeongGi arts and culture, GGCF
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