Summer Camps for Your Fab Lab/Makerspace
By Greg Herker
A great way to do this is host summer camps. These are easy to organize, and parents are always looking for fun & educational opportunities for their kids to participate in during the summer months.
Planning ahead is the most important aspect to a successful camp program. You want to eliminate as many surprises as possible.
First, choose your target audience. I would suggest middle school aged kids. This is a great time to get them involved in making, and they aren’t yet at that age where they have as many obligations; so parents are actively seeking experiences for these students. With that in mind, you need to identify who will run the activities. An adult leader with some older student assistants are a great way to staff your camp.
Next, plan your activities. These will vary depending on the capabilities of your Fab Lab or Makerspace, but plan activities that involve making projects which the campers get to keep and take home. You also will need to evaluate the capabilities of your space. For instance, if you only have (1) 3D printer, having 12 students wanting to print different items the same day is not going to happen. I suggest having various stations prepared for different activities, especially if you can involve projects that have multiple processes that groups can rotate through, that is easier to manage. Also, projects that involve a challenge or foster creativity are much more meaningful than working on pre-canned kits where everyone’s project looks the same. For example, if you are doing a rocketry project that uses a pre-fab kit, make sure you identify ways for students to customize their rocket. Team challenges are great as well. An example is the egg drop challenge where groups are given identical supplies and a raw egg. Each team must devise and build a method to drop the egg from a certain height without it cracking. You will also need to keep in mind the time it takes to get through your projects and avoid full day. My experience has been that sessions of 2-3 hours are about right. So very important! Do trial runs of your planned activities. These will help you identify where difficulties or “Pinch Points” in your operations may be, and you will discover some things take longer or less time than anticipated. A key strategy being, always have more to do than you have time for. This is especially helpful if something just is not working well. You can shift to another activity. Keep things moving!!!
Finally, make sure you get the legal stuff done; permission slips, photo waivers, etc… This is important as you can then document what happens to help promote future dates, and more importantly, kids and parents want to share with their friends on social media platforms.
Summer camps can be a valuable addition to your Fab Lab and Makerspace program that can generate revenue to support the space, and be a great way to promote interest in your school Fab Lab and Makerspace to the community.