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2017 Advent Calendar of Fascinating Websites – Day 7 – Makerspaces

Let’s get Tinkering!

There have been times when I thought my son was born with a screwdriver in his hand. When he was young so many objects in the house were taken apart and then occasionally put back together again! If you too have suffered the loss of several alarm clocks and want to know how to retain your sanity, then help is at hand in the Tinkering-Makerspace community.

Tinkering is essentially thinking with your hands, the practical exploration of ideas, dreams and questions; a way of learning, understanding and enjoying through construction. The TED talk by Vipul Redey at the end of this blog discusses the use of Makerspaces in school and how it changes the way schools help children explore.

I am slightly cheating with today’s fascinating website as you will find the link in Day 6’s post about the Exploratorium. This website is a launchpad to discovering techniques to help develop the tinkerer inside you.

The Tinkering Studio https://tinkering.exploratorium.edu/

While organisations like Young Engineers and the British Science Association offer practical experience of STEM to volunteer-led children’s groups in the UK, tinkering extends these activities to creative arts and crafts (STEAM). Maybe you would like to combine sewing with circuits and make wearable LED bling, you like the idea of painting with light or you have a thing about automata; at the Tinkering Studio you can find starter instructions to help.

If you’re wanting to take this interest further, then a good place to visit would be the MAD Museum – the Museum of Mechanical Art and Design in Stratford-upon-Avon https://themadmuseum.co.uk/ The museum focuses in particular on Kinetic Art and Automata – describing it as a bit like Wallace and Gromit, Scrapheap Challenge and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Or you could visit the annual meeting of The Maker Faire UK movement http://makerfaireuk.com in Newcastle.  This is a two-day family friendly festival of invention and creativity. The next weekend will be Saturday 28 – Sunday 29 April 2018 at the Life Science Centre in Newcastle, where over 300 hackers, crafters, coders, DIYers and garden shed inventors will get together and offer families a chance to try anything from traditional crafts to hi-tech hacks.

However, what if your child is ready for more – where do you go next?  FabLabs, Hackspaces and Makerspaces may be the answer. They are organisations offering community resources; networks of spaces where you can access equipment and resources to try out your ideas.  While most spaces can’t offer general hands-on access to their tooling equipment to under 18 year olds for insurance reasons, parents can join and undertake work to help their children with their projects, and many spaces are now creating tinkering/hacking themed activity days for kids to try things for themselves.

To find out more about these communities check out:



But be warned, once you find out where they are you could end up on 2 hour round trips to access the space with the equipment needed for a project ( we used to!) – and you may find you need to add new storage sheds in the garden for all the old computer circuits and vacuum cleaner hoses you end up collecting!


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