News Column

New museum maker space a big hit

June 14, 2014

By Mary Ann Ford, The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.

June 14--NORMAL -- Dave Musick of Normal took his grandchildren, Isaiah and Jeremiah Kerr, to the Children's Discovery Museum on Friday, not knowing it was the debut of a new "maker space" on the second floor.

When the space was opened after a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the boys were among the first to go in, get a pair of safety goggles and head to all of the interesting materials available to use.

Isaiah, 7 { grabbed a piece of wood and Musick helped him put it in a vise. Isaiah began sawing. As younger brothers often do, 5-year-old Jeremiah followed suit. Isaiah took his wood and moved on to other tools, grabbing an old phone cord and an electronic part.

"I'm really creative," he said. "I'm going to try to make something electric. It's not going to work, but that's OK."

Trying things is what maker spaces are all about.

"There's a lot of opportunity for children to build new things," said Rachel Carpenter, coordinator of Innovation Station, which includes the maker space and the science lab. "They can use their imagination to make new things; use the process of engineering; and possibly think about it as a career."

Museum Manager Sheila Riley credited education coordinator Bethany Thomas and exhibit manager Brad Stefl for "taking a dead old space and transforming it into an exciting new maker space and innovation station. It's a maker station but it's also about disassembling ... taking apart electronics; seeing how a toaster really does work."

Carpenter said The Home Depot partnered with the museum and is providing wood, tools and assorted supplies. The store also will offer workshops at the museum or at the Normal store.

Other workshops are planned, including "Especially Small Science," exploring circuit boards and conducting experiments on June 21; "Printmaking with Plants" on July 26; and a chance to design and create a product on a 3-D printer on Aug. 16. The latter workshop is in conjunction with the University of Illinois, which is providing the printer.

"This is an exciting new project," said Mayor Chris Koos. "We'll reach a lot of kids we haven't reached before. It will reinforce science, technology, engineering and math skills in our young people."

Koos recently agreed to become a "Maker Mayor," part of a challenge by Flint (Mich.) Mayor Dayne Walling, chairman of the Manufacturing Alliance of Communities. Koos committed to build the maker movement in Normal and is working with the museum to expand programming to schools and other Twin City agencies.

Jeremy Fishburn of Springfield called the museum's new maker space "pretty awesome." He and his son, "little Jeremy," were at the museum for the first time.

As required, Fishburn accompanied his son in the space. But he didn't just watch. He worked right alongside, using wood, nails, rubber bands and corks to create a guitar. The younger Jeremy used two pieces of wood, door handles, a plastic fan blade and a piece of electronics to make an airplane.

The museum also debuted a traveling exhibit, "Nano," created by the Nanoscale Information Science Education Network with support from the National Science Foundation. The exhibit offers the basics of nanoscience and engineering through hands-on activities. It will be at the museum for four months.


(c)2014 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.)

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Source: Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL)

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