After developing the Makercart and taking it to the CITYLIS event for the first time, I decided to immerse myself fully into the world of Maker Education. I left my full-time job, applied for funding for the Makercart and co-founded an education start-up, which was accepted into an accelerator program. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), the start-up did not work out but participating in the accelerator program was a great learning experience, now I have my badge of honour of a failed startup!. I received a small grant from the School of Social Entrepreneurs (London) to develop my Makercart project and allow me to test it further in the field. I attended events such as Mozfest 2015 and meet-ups in hackerspaces and makerspaces amongst others.
Towards the end of 2015, I started establishing contacts with library services which had an interest in makerspaces, the first one being Guildford Library (part of the Surrey Library Service). After a great initial meeting with Helen Leech (Senior Manager, Digital Services) set up by the great Gary Green (@ggnewed) we decided to organise a Maker Day to gauge interest in the community. We had an overwhelming response! More than 150 people showed up on the day in a small room where I set maker stations up (with the help of my family!) and to our surprise a councillor who like what he saw offer some money to purchase a cart for the library and run some activities for children. We also had a prominent engineer from Surrey University attending the day and offered to partner with the library to set up a permanent makerspace/tech hub (and looking to bring £500K investment!).
More info and details about how things are progressing at Guildford can be found at www.guildfordmakerspace.org.uk.
I also did some volunteering for Code Club, Coder Dojo, and my local library to develop further my maker skills and broaden my network.
And, I continued my self-directed professional development attending courses such as Design Thinking for Teachers at the American School in London by Elizabeth Perry, registering into online courses such as Tinkering Fundamentals from the Exploratorium’s Tinkering Studio and starting my Make magazine subscription.
In Guildford things are still progressing well: we were amongst the first library outside the US to participate in their Maker Corps program and ran a successful Maker summer program for children in 2016; they now started new Digital Clubs, organised another Maker Day in June 2017 and are doing lots of great work. I’ll soon be visiting them to deliver some Make:Shift:Do workshops at the end of October 2017.
Making connections and alliances has been key in the Makercart development. One key person had been Kate Lomax, Artefacto’s co-founder. I met Kate, by the end of 2015, when looking for librarians with an interest in Making and related cool stuff. We decided to organise an event together to promote Making in Libraries and so we put together our first Making Library Makers event at Makerversity in January 2016, you can find a previous blog about this event at https://artefacto.org.uk/an-introduction-to-making-library-makers/. After that, we’ve continued collaborating, and the work we’re doing keeps getting more interesting!
More about that in the next blog post…