It’s funny how making starts to take over your entire life; you find that every travel adventure becomes an opportunity to get your hacker passport stamped. That’s the way it was for me on a recent trip to Boston. I decided to visit their FabLab, which is the first FabLab that evolved out of MIT, so it is actually quite historic. In a quaint residential neighborhood filled with older homes, I walked down a few steps and entered the South End Technology Center to find a spacious office and lab area that is for the entire community. I was welcomed by Dr. Susan Klimczak, who heads up their youth education program, and we became instant buds since we both love wearables and STEAM education. It helps that she is a major Adafruit fan—check out her cheat sheet for students!
What I like best about the work going on in this FabLab is the way technology and art is combined with current issues that are meaningful to the community. One example of this work is their Rainbow Glove Project, which uses a FLORA microcontroller, color sensor and Codec board. The glove came about because students wanted to convey that it was “okay to be different” and to “show that things are better with many colors”. The glove reads colors and then translates them into sounds, so touching people with different skin tones produces something like music. You can check out a video the students made here. Their project was based on the Adafruit Piano Glove learning guide. So, if you are a STEAM educator or just someone in love with color sensing, check it out!
Another interesting project is the e-textile quilt the students made the year Nelson Mandela visited Boston. The quilt has different areas which illuminate or play audio clips to help honor the story, using a Lilypad MP3 Microcontroller. The crafting is off the charts with this project with laser cut silhouettes on the border, as well as embroidery techniques throughout. You can tell a lot of thought went into the details and it really speaks to community.
Of course when you have a laser cutter there are many possibilities, and the students enjoy making all sorts of swag that they can sell in a pop up shop. It allows for the chance to do customization and teaches them about entrepreneurship. I fell in love with the “Petal” black laser cut earrings, but there were plenty of other options including lariats and pins with cool symbols, as well as holiday ornaments. Some laser cut pieces could also be found in some felt Pac-Man cuffs. Pro-tip: Pre-cutting the shapes allows for faster construction when teaching soft circuit techniques.
It was great visiting another FabLab and I can’t wait for my next excursion. Although there was no stamp available, Susan managed to place a sticker on my passport, right below Familab Florida. It’s all part of the maker memories I’m accumulating. Thanks to Susan and a deep bow to Mel King, the man who helped lead many in Boston into the empowering world of technology. Looking for best practices in tech education or new ways to set up your shop? The best thing you can do is visit other maker spaces. Make sure you get a hacker passport and share your travel story with us.
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