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Sparklab is an educational build-mobile. We're filling a truck with maker equipment and driving it from school to school to run workshops that teach kids to make things. Think of us as a shop class on wheels.

Status building
Country United States of America
State or District California
City Palo Alto
Last Updated 2012-03-05
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 Palo Alto
United States of America

Number of members 7
Membership fee No membership fee has been set up yet; Sparklab is a mobile hackerspace that fits in a truck and drives from school to school, so the business model is being worked out.

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How we started[edit]

Sparklab began at Stanford with a group of students passionate about making, education and technology. As part of a yearlong thesis project, we talked with teachers, students, and other experts about hands-on learning. We were shocked to find that due to tight budgets and strict testing requirements, many schools don't have the flexibility or equipment to support hands-on building. Why this matters:

Student engagement is one of the best predictors of academic success, and there are few things more engaging than designing and building something with your hands. Education leaders like Sir Ken Robinson and Salman Khan have called for more creative and integrated projects in schools, but many districts just don't have the resources or space to support these kinds of activities.

Join us![edit]

We need support for our kickstarter campgain to get Sparklab off the ground and driving around -- please help out and spread the word!

We believe in practicing the open source way and value transparency and collaboration, so we've tried to make it possible for people to jump in on everything we do.

  • We have all of our discussions on a public mailing list, which we'd love you to join -- come in and introduce yourself, and we'll say hi!
  • We tweet @sparktruck and also dent @sparktruck -- they're identical, so pick the one you prefer to follow.
  • Our wiki is here at Edit away!
  • We have a shiny webpage at that we haven't done much with yet. Still getting started -- what ideas do you have for it?

What's in the truck[edit]

We're currently outfitting a delivery truck with cutting-edge maker tools and software (like laser cutters, 3D printers, and hand tools) and drive from school to school bringing teachers and students the resources and equipment they need to create engaging, educational activities. We'll use our expertise in making, education and technology to help teachers come up with creative ways to teach their curriculum, and enable them to bring more excitement into their classrooms.

Our current shopping list:

  • 16' step van
  • laser cutter
  • 3D printer
  • auxiliary generator
  • vinyl cutter
  • tables
  • cabinets
  • awning
  • materials
  • hand tools

Frequently Asked Questions[edit]

Filling these in is on our to-do list, but in the meantime, feel free to ask questions if you have them!

What's your plan for long-term sustainability?[edit]

We're strong believers in scalability and impact. Our ultimate goal is to have permanent facilities installed in schools, prepackaged units that PTAs can purchase, and online resources that let people replicate the facilites and activities we're developing.

For us, the truck is a prototype and a way to inspire a larger movement towards getting making back into more schools. SparkLab is as much a project about awareness as it is about our one truck. We're hoping that by having a singular, "sticky" story (at least to begin with), we can touch more schools personally than a single install would. At the same time, we'll use the truck as a platform in which to try out our ideas about exactly what kinds of materials/tools/space layout would work the best, and once we have something that we're sure is great, it's off to the races with mass distribution!

What's your teaching philosophy?[edit]

What differentiates our approach from other groups teaching open-ended problem solving processes to students is our emphasis on the creation of a physical artifact. We believe that physical artifacts serve three functions: 1. Trophy - The artifact is a trophy that students can show off and tell everyone "hey, look what I made!" It encapsulates the feelings of pride and empowerment and acts as a physical touchpoint for them to remember these feelings. 2. Map - The artifact is a map back to the process. By looking at 3. Communication tool

What workshops are you teaching?[edit]

We've run 2 workshops so far ranging from Flying Creatures to miniature robots. Check out our Workshops Page to find a list of materials, steps and a cost breakdown of each activity.

What people are saying[edit]

All along our journey, we've been encouraged by the support we've received from teachers, students, parents and makers. Here's some of what we've heard so far:

"It's really exciting to see you bringing this creative confidence back to the classroom... this is the kind of learning that really sticks with kids."

- David Kelley, Founder of IDEO

"I love the truck. This is a great way to bring the tools and materials for making to more young makers."

- Dale Dougherty, Founding editor of MAKE Magazine

"This is an incredibly cool idea – getting these tools into the hands of kids!"

- Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk and fellow Maker

"Having a resource like this would be so empowering to teachers and students!"

- Marcy Barton, 5th grade teacher and education pioneer