In a large recreational hall transformed into a full-fledged makerspace, laughter, chatter, and occasional screeches sounded from a table surrounded by youths and cluttered with laptops, LEGO bricks, and clay models. During a 2-week summer maker camp, the 16 youths (5 girls, 11 boys), 9- to 13-years old, were creating 3D models of a variety of items, from remixed superhero logos to miniature sports equipment. First, they used physical prototyping materials, including playdough, wax, LEGOs, or clay, to try out modeling in three dimensions. Then they created digital models of their ideas, and lastly they got to print their work using 3D printers. Lisa, curious mahogany eyes looking through peek-a-boo bangs, was among the campers. With concentration, she switched between a street-view photograph of her house and her 3D model of the same, seemingly trying to get just enough details into her model. Then another camper called on her for support. Despite not having used 3D modeling software or printer before, Lisa emerged as the go-to person during camp, jumping back and forth between crafting her personal project and helping out fellow campers. When others printed their projects, she lingered with them around the row of 3D printers, watching the models emerge. In this 21st-century version of shop class, 3D printers are part of the new set of tools youths are using to imagine, design, and make.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book focuses on makerspaces, which are often centered in physical spaces such as hackerspaces, FabLabs, schools, museums, libraries, homes, and church basements, as well as online communities. Makerspaces provide their patrons with resources, both human and technological, to advance their craft, ranging from community expertise to access to professional-grade tools for personal fabrication. The book highlights insights from designers as they start to build out and improve makerspaces as learning environments. Karen Wilkinson of the San Francisco-based Exploratorium takes making into a massive open online course (MOOC) through Coursera. As they do so, they play with the genre of teaching online using social media in ways that are aligned with the emergent pedagogies of what makes a good makerspace to reinvent online learning. The book discusses how they can transform a makerspace from a hackerspace culture to a true learning culture.