Tag Archives: making

Making, from cradle to career

Manufacturing is on the rise again in the greater Pittsburgh region, but if you’re imagining a return of the blast furnaces and smoke stacks that typified heavy industry in the 20th century, think again. New technologies—from 3D design and rapid prototyping to automation and additive manufacturing—have transformed the business of making things.

With these advances come new career opportunities that look just as unfamiliar when compared with the grit and grime encountered by the manufacturing workforce of the past. As described in Inflection Point, a 2016 study by the Allegheny Conference, today’s manufacturing workers are just as likely to use design software or program a robot as they are to wield a welding torch or operate production machinery.

The result is that employers are struggling to find employees who possess a now necessary combination of creative thinking, collaborative problem-solving, technical know-how, and hands-on skill to fill the roles available in today’s manufacturing sector.

Faced with this challenge, both employers and educators are taking lessons from the maker movement to build new models for career and technical education. The maker movement has been powering a resurgence of interest in hands-on creativity and informal innovation among hobbyists and tinkerers for years. The question now is how do we make the leap from maker to manufacturer?

In the Pittsburgh region, schools, workforce development agencies, and youth-serving organizations are using maker learning approaches to help students develop technical skills and inquisitive dispositions, expose them to future career opportunities, and enhance connections to growing industries that offer family-sustaining jobs.

Across the region, more than 120 manufacturing-related programs are underway, including project-based learning in schools, creative and collaborative maker after-school activities, and teacher training initiatives. The challenge is linking these many individual efforts into a coherent, comprehensive, and complementary continuum of learning experiences.

Exploring early with creative technology

As any maker will tell you, trial and error is an inherent part of the process. Similarly, early maker learning activities are often about exploration and discovery. From pre-kindergarten and elementary school to high school levels, students learn valuable lessons about physical materials, hands-on techniques, and creative thinking as they take their first steps in making.

While programs like these may not form a direct connection to manufacturing, they lay the foundation of knowledge, skills and dispositions for making. Plus, they get kids excited about learning and introduce them to possibilities of making ever more complex things.

You see maker learning experiences like these at public events like Maker Faire Pittsburgh, where thousands of kids and families are exposed to hands-on creativity. Hands-on activities are a standard feature of most summer camps, but maker spaces like the MAKESHOP at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh turn traditional arts and crafts on its head by combining old-school making like sewing and woodworking with new-school making that integrates electronics and circuitry.

To help more schools provide these kinds of exploratory experiences to students, especially during the critical early years of elementary, some schools of education are integrating maker practices into training for pre-service teachers and professional development for teachers already working in the classroom. For example, the Center for Arts and Education at West Liberty University is a multi-faceted hands-on learning laboratory and resource center focused on the integration of the arts, creativity, and technology.

“In the world of work and the real world that will come for those children who are now in the pre-K through 12 system, adaptability is critical,” says Dr. Keeley Camden, Dean of the College of Education at West Liberty University. “How adaptable can you be to the changes that are happening so rapidly? What can you contribute? How can you utilize whatever you have on-hand to work for the greater good?”

Making connections to manufacturing skills

Next stop on the pathway from make to manufacturing is the development of skills, both the technical skills needed to build and produce physical products, and the “soft skills” that are as much about mindset as they are about skillset. Often called “21st-Century Skills,” these include the ability to think critically about a problem, to work collaboratively with a team, to communicate ideas and questions clearly, and to harness the individual and collective creativity of the group to solve challenges.

Members of the Remake Learning community are integrating these hard and soft skills through interdisciplinary approaches that combine science, technology, engineering, arts and math— otherwise known as STEAM. In the Fort Cherry School District students participating in the Design2Display project build connections between design, making, and business by creating and producing goods for sale, from concept inception to prototype production through product marketing.

The IU1 Fablab brings hands-on STEM & STEAM learning opportunities to K-12 students in rural communities in southwestern Pennsylvania. In a learn-by-doing setting, students explore the entire engineering design process in authentic and real world contexts by providing tools that enable them to go from concept to drawing, models to prototype, and redesign to final product. The lab serves as a motivational environment to encourage student engagement with technology.

“Being an educator for over 26 years, I can tell you that there was a period of time when creativity had gone away from the classroom. Maker spaces bring all that back,” says Don Martin, Assistant Executive Director of Intermediate Unit 1, an educational services agency that serves school districts in Fayette, Greene, and Washington Counties. “A lot of people think you go in and run a machine, you run a 3D printer or a laser cutter. But really, it provides more than just creating something. It’s the full package of essential skills that students take with them when they leave and enter the workforce.”

Building awareness and interest in manufacturing careers

While experiential learning opens the door for students to explore making things with their hands and project-based learning in makerspaces helps students build valuable skills, how do you then draw the connections from these maker learning experiences to careers in manufacturing?

Catalyst Connection, a 501c3 non-profit economic development that works with 3,000 manufacturing companies across southwestern Pennsylvania, has been introducing young people to the new face of manufacturing for 15 years.

Through their Explore the New Manufacturing initiative, Catalyst Connection connects students with employers searching for new talent and skilled tradespeople who have turned their craft into rewarding careers in manufacturing.

“Manufacturing provides opportunities for people to develop their career. From an entry-level position, you can grow your skills and capabilities and then move into any area of the business,” says Petra Mitchell, President and CEO of Catalyst Connection. “The maker movement is an excellent career awareness opportunity. When students think about how to make something and how to see a product come to fruition, that’s the first step of manufacturing.”

Catalyst Connection partners with manufacturers to create experiences that introduce young people to career opportunities they may have never considered. Through a student video contest, middle school students produce short documentaries about a local manufacturing business. The Manufacturing Innovation Challenge pairs a team of high school students with a company facing a production challenge and tasks the students with developing a workable (and economical) solution. And to help teachers bring real world relevance into their instruction, Catalyst Connection partners with ASSET STEM Education to lead professional development workshops on project-based learning for area educators.

“Teachers are often the main source of career awareness and career education,” says Mitchell. “We want to make sure that teachers are fully up-to-speed on the opportunities in manufacturing.”



This post is part of a special series exploring the connections between maker learning and careers in manufacturing. In the next installment, we’ll see how educators are supporting students as they explore where their passion for making can take them, both in school and in the world of work.

Rethinking Reuse: Catching Up With Erika Johnson

Erika Johnson is the executive director of the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse (PCCR). The center is both a shop of reclaimed materials and a center for hands-on creative programming. An evangelist for reuse, Johnson believes reuse is an essential and underappreciated way to build sustainable communities. Johnson is also an installation artist with a long-term passion for found, rescued, and reclaimed materials, and a more recent obsession with microscopic animals.

Remake Learning: What’s new at the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse?

Erika Johnson: We specialize in used and reclaimed materials, but there is always something new going on. Nora and Katy on our education team have been helping our friends in the Climate & Urban Systems Partnership to develop fun, creative ways of sharing scientifically accurate information about climate change. Their 2015 calendar is filling up fast with afterschool events, workshops for kids and educators, and festivals.

Our biggest news this minute is that we are racing the clock to meet a dollar-for-dollar matching challenge from an anonymous donor to help us purchase a new van. Since our old van died in December, we haven’t been able to pick-up large donations and our staff and volunteers are carpooling to events. Our community is totally pulling together for us, and we’re having a pay-what-you-can, potluck, grown-up crafting party on February 12 to help us raise the last little bit. We keep the shop open late the second Thursday of every month for Open Studio, where creative minds 18 and older can play with the abundant materials in our “bulk” section. This month will be extra special.

We like to think these kids will grow into adults who reimagine waste as a resource for building a better world.

What do you consider the center’s biggest accomplishment so far?

I am so proud that we exist! Since 2010, we’ve grown from a tiny team of artists in an attic to a thriving resource for our community. I love that so many of our city’s libraries, schools, nonprofit organizations, teachers, artists, and innovators use materials from PCCR for their creative projects.

An entire generation of Pittsburgh kids is practicing creativity and sustainability through play with reclaimed materials. We like to think that means they will grow into adults who reimagine waste as a resource for building a better world.

What’s the toughest part about the work you do? 

The hardest thing is knowing how much amazing stuff gets thrown away every day in our city and not having the capacity to get more of it into the hands of educators, artists, and makers who could use it. We’re proud of the fact that we diverted over 35 tons of reusable material from the landfill last year, but that’s actually less than the city’s recycling team picks up every day.

What makes a collaboration successful?

Successful collaboration requires trust—both in ones’ collaborators and in the process of co-creation—and a willingness to surrender individual control. My friend Hannah DuPlessis recently gave a brilliant talk at Google’s Pittsburgh offices in which she talked about successful collaboration through the lens of improvisational theatre. It’s a great read for anyone interested in creating with others.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Pittsburgh on a Sunday afternoon?

If it’s cold outside, there’s nothing better than a visit to one of our great museums. On a sunny day, though, you’re more likely to find me in the Homewood Cemetery looking at frogs and moss and collecting pond water to look at with my homemade microscope.

Young Makers Score a Home Run for Hands-on Learning

As part of the Rookie of the Gear project, summer visitors to the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum Makeshop constructed a working, 12-foot tall pitching machine. On September 1, the machine made its major league debut by throwing the first pitch at a Pittsburgh Pirates game. Three of the contraption’s young designers got to stand on the field at PNC Park, pirate hats and all, to watch their concept—once just ideas on paper–hurl the first ball.

Earlier this summer, kids drew designs for their dream pitching machine then helped build an actual catapult at Makeshop in the following weeks. Then as a test run, the machine tossed water balloons at the Pittsburgh Mini Maker Faire before finally heading to the pitching mound.

Rookie of the Gear was a summer-long project through the Makeshop at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum. Makeshop is an open space within the museum for kids and their families to tinker, build, and create amazing things. From birdhouses to stop-motion animations, Makeshop embraces kids’ natural instinct to learn by doing. It lets them problem solve and explore their creative urges with various materials like wood, textiles, and electronics. The space has all sorts of awesome tools and museum staff on hand to help out.

Designing and constructing the pitching machine was a perfect example of the project-based learning Makeshop encourages kids and their families to try.

Encouraging kids to experiment builds important skills in science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM), educators say. Spurring lifelong interests will hopefully one day lead to careers. With inspiration from museums, the Maker movement is also catching on in schools—in Pittsburgh and around the country. Last month I spoke to educators and researchers who are using what’s happening in Makeshop to further understand what makes tinkering so valuable for young learners, and to bring that back to classrooms to ensure all kids can experience this kind of learning.

Rookie of the Gear may have ended, but check out what the folks at Makeshop have planned this fall. If you can’t get to Makeshop, the Makeshop Show is the online headquarters for kids to get ideas for maker-inspired projects like a gumball machine fish tank or a soup can microphone.

What’s happening at World Maker Faire?

The third annual World Maker Faire kicked off Saturday morning at the New York Hall of Science (NySci). Billed as “The Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth,” World Maker Faire brings together hobbyists and engineers, teachers and students, hackers and scientists for two days of demonstrations and workshops, exhibits and performances, collaboration and celebration of all things making and doing.

Presented by MAKE Magazine and O’Reilly Media, the Maker Faire is far from the typical science fair!

MakerFaire crowdWhether they’re educating the next generation of creative innovators or fabricating the next industrial revolution, makers are making an impact on the way the world learns, works, and plays.

Among the many thousands of folks and families in attendance, members of Pittsburgh’s Kids+Creativity network are on the ground, taking in the sites, meeting fellow makers, sharing stories and tips, and trying our hand at some of the contraptions on display.
Stay tuned for Spark reports from World Maker Faire throughout the weekend!

Saturday, September 29

Clouds and the occasional misting couldn’t keep the crowds away as makers of all ages and the make-curious gathered to learn, share, create, and celebrate hands-on creativity and Do-It-Yourself design.

Basketball shooting robot

In the Young Makers section, kids and adults alike tried their hand at constructing and deconstructing structures large and small, and programming and reverse engineering gadgets simple and complex.

Here, people put their math skills to the test, computing the trajectory of a basketball-shooting robot and looking for nothing but net.



Parents discuss Larchmont Young Makers group

In the Education Cafe, students, educators, and parents shared stories and strategies for integrating Making into the ways children learn both in and out of schools.

A group of parents shared lessons they learned from starting the Larchmont Young Makers community. Growing from informal basement hang-outs to a community-wide supplemental education and creativity program that’s bursting at the seams.



FLOAT Beijing kites and sensors
Stopped by Deren Guler’s table to see the results of her FLOAT Beijing project, using kites equipped with air quality sensors to give city dwellers the ability to collect data and actively monitor the environmental health of their community.

Deren’s project was one of many examples of how people can apply the DIY maker ethos to meet very real challenges with curiosity, ingenuity, and creativity. Checkout some of the other Sustainability Projects at Maker Faire.


If it wasn’t obvious already, this maker movement thing is for real! Stay tuned for more on Sunday.

Sunday, September 30

Sunday started the day off with a late breakfast, chez Pancakebot, a Lego Mindstorms hack that does everything but the flipping!
Pancakebot making flapjacks

Also inside of NySci, more than 100 makers are demo’ing their latest inventions that remixed the familiar to bridge the gap between the present and the future.

And the USB Typewriter took the next logical step for touch-screen tablets like the iPad…connect them with antique typewriter keyboards, of course!

We spoke with one family this morning who came in for the day and couldn’t believe how one festival could captivate a toddler, a 6 year old, and mom and dad too!

Power Racing Series
Earlier this afternoon, we stopped by the make-shift race track where HackPgh battled it out with other DIY shops from across the country in the Power Racing Series. Challenged to produce a working electric vehicles for just $500, race teams were pitted against one another in this high stakes, high speed, and high efficiency showdown!

The Next Generation of Makers

We Don’t Just Live, We Make

The world we live in today did not happen by accident. Everything around us is a product of someone’s imagination, ingenuity, and inspiration. Makers are curious, creative, ambitious, and innovative. They are simultaneously artist and scientist. They are average people who are passionate and dedicated to reimagining the world around them and for whom the process of making is more important than the final product.

We don’t just live, we make.  This is the mantra of Dale Dougherty, founding editor and publisher of MAKE Magazine and co-founder of the Maker Faire. Dougherty is known as the godfather of the “maker movement,” a modern Do-It-Yourself (DIY) renaissance that embraces science and art, technology and crafting, functionality and whimsy, play and purpose.  He once described the maker movement as a lifestyle that rejects commercial culture and embraces “green” living and self-sufficiency.

From the Fringes to the Spotlight

In recent years the maker movement has migrated from garages and workshops into the mainstream. The concept of making is embraced by museums, K-12 classrooms, universities, community centers, art galleries, and even Fortune 500 companies. Magazines like MAKE, founded by Dougherty in 2005, and WIRED have helped bring the people and projects at the core of the maker movement into the worldwide media spotlight.

Websites like Etsy, Instructables, and Pintrest have made it easier than ever for makers to connect with one another and to build off of one another’s progress. However, it’s not only the internet that has made the maker movement increase in mainstream popularity. The cost and availability of raw materials including technology has gone down considerably in recent years.  Software like AutoDesk, Photoshop, and iMovie have revolutionized the DIY movement and are accessible to almost everyone. Machines like 3D printers—which are the cool new tools among maker circles—can be purchased for about the same cost as an Apple computer. Today, the world’s most advanced technology is just a mere click of a mouse away.

The Local Maker Movement is Changing the Landscape of Education

Pittsburgh has long been at the heart of industrial, technological, and artistic achievement. From Carnegie Mellon University to The Carnegie Museums, UPMC to PPG Industries, the Steel City continues to be a global leader in all fields of science and art.

It is no surprise that Pittsburgh is home to a wealth of world-class programs aimed at cultivating a new generation of makers. Programs that help to foster collaborations between artists, educators, scientists, parents, universities, and other institutions are popping up all over the city to offer children maker experiences. From taking apart old cell phones to sketching a prototype of a new robot to constructing an oversized model of Mars, makers-in-training have no shortage of opportunities for expression both in and out of the classroom.

In the winter of 2011, a repairman entered a kindergarten classroom to fix a broken heater at Pittsburgh Allegheny K-5 located on Pittsburgh’s North Side. One student in the classroom, who was no more than five years old, asked the worker if he was going to use a schematic to fix the heater. Yes, a kindergarten student inquired about a real life schematic.

Children's Innovation Project.

Thanks to the Children’s innovation Project (CIP), the kindergartners at Allegheny know more about schematics, electrical circuitry, and sketching diagrams than most adults. Established in 2012, CIP tends to focus on the youngest makers: three to five-year-olds. In addition to building hands-on and technical know-how, the in-classroom experiences enhance skills in language, art, understanding  concepts, and interpreting information.

“We were really proud when we heard that story,” says Jeremy Boyle, a resident artist at Carnegie Mellon University’s Community, Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment (CREATE) Lab and co-developer of CIP. Along with Melissa Butler, kindergarten teacher at Allegheny Traditional Academy, Boyle designs interdisciplinary programs that encourage kids to look beyond the surface and discover the basic building blocks that make up the world around us.

“At the beginning of the school year, we asked kids to bring in a small toy for them to take apart,” says Butler. “At first they didn’t want to take it apart, like they were breaking a rule that says you aren’t supposed to see what’s inside. Several months later they could tell you what was making the toys work without having to take them apart.”

Now in its second year, CIP asks kids to break down what they see through tinkering, observational drawing, and creative inquiry. With technology as the anchor, Boyle spends hours allowing the students to discover concepts like cause/effect, which they have rephrased as do/happen.  “Getting the kids to realize that everything is a construct is key to what we’re doing,” says Boyle.  “Melissa and I present making in the context of art to show kids that ingenuity is within their reach.”

Boyle has been working on maker education initiatives with Butler since 2003, when they met at the Mattress Factory art museum. This fall, CIP will expand to first and second grade classrooms at Pittsburgh Traditional Academy, as well as other in-school and out-of-school programs throughout the region.

Collaborations are the Cornerstone of Maker Education

Like the partnership between Boyle and Butler that brought together CMU’s CREATE Lab and the Pittsburgh Public Schools, the MAKESHOP is the outcome of The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s collaboration with the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University. MAKESHOP is the first permanent “maker” exhibition in a children’s museum anywhere in the country.

MAKESHOP at The Children's Museum

On any given day, the MAKESHOP is bustling with kids of all ages and their grown-ups. The atmosphere is busy, with creations being made on every available surface, even the floor. Adam Nye, MAKESHOP manager, works closely with research fellow Lisa Brahms, to make the new exhibit a mecca for making and learning.

“Parents are learning right next to their children, and they’re taking an active role in the process,” says Nye. “We have materials that spark every interest, from hammers and nails to sewing machines to pencils and paper.”

As a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Learning and Out of School Environments (UPCLOSE), Brahms knows it’s important to remove any barriers that may prevent families from getting involved in making. “Our goal is to simply encourage kids to tinker with materials and get a basic understanding of the design process,” says Brahms. “If they are interested in some of the foundational concepts, then we hope it will spark their desire to dig deeper. Our staff members guide visitors while they’re here, and expose them to terminology and equipment. In the education world, it’s called scaffolding.”

Scaffolding is a prominent educational model, both in and out of the maker world. It’s a theory that promotes deeper learning in any subject, where teachers tailor lessons to each student’s learning goals. With high student to teacher ratios in schools, many parents are looking outside of the classroom for this type of student-centric learning and they’re finding it among independent maker programs.

Maker Programs Offer Support Outside the Classroom

At Assemble, a community art and technology space in Pittsburgh’s Garfield neighborhood, artist and gallery director Nina Barbuto asks a group of eager kids, “If you could make anything out of electricity, what would you make and why?” One kid said she would build a robot so that she’d have someone to play tennis with. Other kids said they would make lightning fast cars, or robots to clean their rooms, and one said he would build a machine to raise the Titanic.

“I drive my daughter here from Sewickley,” said Shannon Ashmore whose child attended Assemble’s M3 Workshop on electricity. “My husband and I are both architects so making and creativity is important in our family. These workshops are a great support to what our daughter learns in the classroom.”

Kids collaborate with adult mentors at Assemble / Photo: Ben Filio

Programs at Assemble are part art workshop, part science lab, and part learning party. Children are greeted with bowls of goldfish crackers and coolers of juice boxes. There are heaps of recycled materials: a jar of old screws here and a mound of empty egg cartons there. The walls are covered in blank newsprint, so kids can boldly sketch their ideas. It’s a wonderland for creative expression. Participants get several hours of instruction with an artist or professional scientist, and at the end they are asked to “present” what they’ve made.

“We take simple materials and big concepts, then we make some really cool things with them,” says Barbuto, a trained architect, installation artist, and educator. “Assemble is a space for big and small kids to share knowledge and to have a great time doing it. We provide an alternative to the classroom environment where kids gain confidence through making. Our hope is that they take these skills and apply that to all other areas of their lives, including school.”

Kids are Born Makers

The maker movement is about access to materials and information,” says Joe Wos, director of Pittsburgh’s ToonSeum and proud father of a young maker. “The internet provides the ultimate research tool for kids. They don’t have to go to a museum or school to find cool stuff to build with. I give my old phones and computers to my son, who was able to name their components by age 5.”

As an artist, cartoon museum director, and parent, Wos is always looking for new ways to make “geek culture” cool. He frequently allows his son to work alongside him at The ToonSeum, testing new technologies that engage the public in thinking creatively.

“They take a movement and say now how do we teach this? It’s simple,” says Wos. “You don’t! You provide the resources, the tools, and the materials then get the heck out of the way. Sometimes we actually need to step back and realize that maybe we have more to learn from kids in some cases than we have to teach them.”

That’s where places like MAKESHOP and Assemble, along with in-classroom programs like the Children’s Innovation Project become invaluable resources. They provide a safe haven for exploration, an environment where kids can create and learn without reproach.

Children are natural “makers”. From the moment they are born, they are filled with an innate sense of curiosity and wonder. They tinker, hack, play, design, build, explore, tweak, and create. It’s going to take a village, or in this case a city, to nurture the next generation of makers so that they see the world as  theirs to transform.

Children and teens learn by doing in the MakeShop at The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

It’s nearing lunchtime at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh when Shaylee Fagan, age 5, sits down to sew.

“This right here turns it on,” Chris Davidson, a museum volunteer, tells her.

Davidson points to a small switch on the sewing machine, one of many hands-on tools housed in the museum’s latest permanent exhibit, MakeShop. The new three-room learning space invites children to design and construct objects as part of maker culture, a growing DIY movement for all ages.

“[Maker culture] is best summarized as people wanting to get back to making things with their hands, to inventing, to tinkering,” said Children’s Museum Program Manager Angela Seals, who curated the exhibit. “It has to do with people being divorced from the objects we’ve used for so long. With consumer culture, we have no idea where things come from. This is a backlash to all of that.”

Increasingly, maker principals are being employed in early childhood education as means for imparting 21st-century learning skills, such as creative problem solving, innovation, and media and technology literacy.

Entering the MakeShop, kids are immediately posed one question: “What do you want to make?” They work independently and with staff members to draw loose design plans for items ranging from trucks to kittens to cartoon characters. Then, a variety of stations are made available for woodworking, circuitry, and 3-D modeling.

Shaylee sits in the open shop room, which offers soft materials, like bright fabrics and plastics, for textile making. Her moment in the shop is a quiet one: She has decided to make a small pillow, and today she will use a sewing machine for the first time.

“Ready, go!” Davidson whispers.

Shaylee presses the pedal with her fingers and watches at eye level as the needle thrums up and down.

The exhibit space also hosts lectures and show-how sessions by professional makers, so far including a blacksmith,  wool spinner and origami maker.

The MakeShop Show

Seals is quick to point out that while the MakeShop space is new, a vibrant maker culture has been in the works for years.

“There was a movement like this in the 70s when people went back to making things with their hands. What makes it distinct right now is all the use of new technology,” she said.

Continuing that trend, this winter the Children’s Museum is teaming up with artistic innovators The Schmutz Company to launch The MakeShop Show, a weekly webisode created for and by kids that will bundle all the action of the MakeShop into quirky, colorful video episodes for ages 6 to 10.

Funded by a Sprout Super Spark award, the show will film sporadically in the MakeShop, featuring kids as hosts and makers and ultimately involving them in production. Using a reflection booth, young makers will also be able to independently record their own stories about what they’ve created.

“There’s still a lot of debate about the use of technology in early childhood, but we feel like if we can introduce it as a tool toward creativity and not something they can just sit in front of, that we’re empowering them to be a part of the solution, too,” Seals said.

For viewers at home, two to three episodes a month will be posted online that alternate between segments like craft show-hows, maker interviews, junkyard war challenges and take-apart sessions. Each segment is voted on directly by the kids and can be used as a launching pad for activities at home and in the classroom.

Several early segments of the show have already been posted, including a tutorial for sewing an LED bracelet with conductive thread. However, Seals says audiences should expect the look of the show to improve throughout the pilot season due to new technology and a polished production process.

“We’ve had to learn a lot technically as a production team, and we know the show doesn’t represent exactly what our end goal is right now,” Seals said of the first episode, which recorded its video and sound on a basic Handycam. Using Sprout funding, the team has since invested in higher quality film and production equipment, including a video camera topped with the MakeShop logo—which, when seen in the MakeShop, is an immediate sign that tape is rolling.

“One of the great aspects of the Super Spark funding is that it’s allowing us to get the infrastructure built and to get the equipment we need to do this and set it up in a sustainable way,” Seals said.

To her, it’s okay the team didn’t hit it out of the park right away.

“We tell kids to try again, try again, try again, and we have to model it,” she said. “We know once we set that tone of fun, people follow us there.”

The show team is mentored by kids programming vet Alice Wilder, a former producer of “Blue’s Clues,” and is inspired by the life’s work of long-time museum friend Fred Rogers.