Can you visualize a motorized jellyfish and a life time maker teaching a bunch of school children basic elements of motion and making. Now imagine those same children building old-time scientific gadgets out of scrap material that was headed for local landfills. Maker Ryan DeWitt did, and that’s how the “Saturday Makers” series at the hackLAB was born. The hands-on workshops for children ages six to 18 focus on a variety of making things, scientific experiments and fun.
When he’s not leading children on a quest for scientific knowledge, Ryan makes Kinetic Sculptures with found materials. With a background in design, he has no trouble dreaming up projects for the young scientists to do.
“I’ve been a hacker – maker my entire life,” Ryan explained. “I do the things that are immersive and interesting to me. I’m not trying to forc any particular body of knowledge, I’m just giving the kids challenges and experiments that give them something to ponder and even debate.”
The lesson plan for this Saturday’s workshops center on using, safe electric motors, natural kinetic energy, The kids build their own things from the Durham’s Scrap Exchange stuff, wires, a battery, and a magnet for example.
An upcoming workshop will examine sound and pitch in a variety of experiments. Who know’s what’s next.
“We’ll record and analyze sound patterns using an oscilloscope and We’ll look at the wave shapes of different sounds and actually see what our voices look like. Then we’ll make a musical instrument.” That’s likely to be a set of Pan pipes, he said, because if there’s one item Art from Scrap has plenty of, it’s plastic pipe.
One of the main missions is teaching environmental education and a greater understanding of conservation and recycling through art workshops using discarded materials.
Proving that one person’s trash is another person’s treasures, the Scrap Exchange is a one-stop shopping source for items as diverse as fabric and wallpaper scraps; Plexiglas, cardboard tubes; test tubes; and petri dishes – not to mention bottles of all shapes, sizes and colors; film canisters; unused paint cans, and the plastic shavings from roller-skate wheels.
To further its educational aims, Art from Scrap has partnered with the county Office of Education to host field trips for the public schools in hopes of expanding children’s awareness of the importance of conservation. During the 1993-94 school year, more than 3,000 children from schools in the county participated in environmental education and art workshop field trips.
Currently the hackLAB has no funding and budget but it is sure to have an enormous impact on the quality of environmental education. Hopefully it will quickly become a model for other counties and states. Representatives from as far have visited Santa Barbara’s facility looking to find out how they can establish their own programs.
the hackLAB is located at 158 Daniels St Raleigh, NC. It is open every Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For information, call Ryan at 919-807-1158.