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Making & Tinkering Spaces in Museums Hangout: Spotlight on the Lawrence Hall of Science - Your Questions

By Mary Mathias posted 10-06-2014 11:34




Making & Tinkering Spaces in Museums Hangout -

Spotlight on a Space: The Lawrence Hall of Science 


Your Questions from the Hangout


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These questions were asked by attendees of the Making & Tinkering Spaces in Museums Community of Practice hangout that took place on October 2, 2014. The panelists, Monika Mayer, Sherry Hsi, and Allan Ayres from the Lawrence Hall of Science, have provide the answers below. You can view the recording of the webinar here:

Q: How do you handle materials storage w/ a dual use space (Ingenuity Lab and workshop space)?
A: Monika Mayer - We have different storage areas for the exhibit and the Ingenuity Lab. Consumables are being purchased on different chart strings. Some of the resources are shared with the education team as we are prototyping more classes and festivals. Materials storage is a constant issue as we are growing our programs. We just cleared more space in the back room off the Ingenuity Lab to create a workspace and more storage space. We share a small shop area with the education department in this area. Ideally we would like to have the Ingenuity Lab for engineering/tinkering programs only.

Q: Do you limit the number of visitors in the space?
A: M.M. -  We see between 60-200 visitors on a weekend day. On Holidays this number can be slightly higher. Usually we are able to accommodate everybody. 15min before we the Lab closes we tell visitors that there will not be enough time to work on a design challenge as it takes a minimum of 20 min. We invite visitors to come in the lab and check out what others have done. Some design challenges can only accommodate a certain number of visitors due to the materials – if we are at capacity we put a sign in the hallway and ask visitors to check back at a later time.

Q: How do you come up with your activities? 
A: M.M. - (Ingenuity Lab) We get inspiration work we have done in the past, from colleagues in the field as well as from artists, engineers and scientist that we have worked with in the past, especially through Open Make events and Meet the Makers events. Sometimes we are also inspired because we have an interest in a particular phenomena. The Lab is the perfect place to prototype ideas and test them with the public, get immediate feedback and incorporate this into the next iteration.

Allan Ayres -  (Design Quest) We choose the most popular design challenges that work well in the Ingenuity Lab and harden and scaffold them more to work as an exhibit. 

Sherry Hsi - (TechHive) Ideas come from the teens themselves, staff facilitators, and collaborators. Sometimes teens have interests in a particular phenomena, or an interest in helping a particular problem (e.g., how to charge a battery on a cell phone with ocean power), a general hobby-driven interest (e.g., making clothes), or working with a particular tool or technology (e.g., doing something with LEDs or Raspberry PI or Python). We like to play around with ideas on paper with sketching, but also watch videos posted from colleagues.  

Q: How many facilitators/staff members are there usually in the space?  
A: M.M. - (Ingenuity Lab) We currently have one 80% FTE (myself), 2 student facilitators (paid; together 50% FTE), 10 active volunteers, and 15 active teen interns. Volunteers and teen interns are expected to work two 3 hour shifts per month.

A.A. - (Design Quest) During this fall venue: 1-2 or maybe 3, supplemented on weekends with 4 teen interns. During the last summer venue: 3 paid students plus 8 teen volunteers every day. 

S.H. - (TechHive) We have two facilitators plus a part-time work study student (undergrad at UC Berkeley) that manage 32 teens. We have a partnership with an undergrad interest group called BEAM (Berkeley Engineers and Mentors) who also help mentor and work with teens on some afternoons. About 4-8 BEAM students, on rotation, come up to work with us. 

Q: How many staff would you ideally have in each space? 
A: M.M. - (Ingenuity Lab) Because of the number of visitors we serve, the development of new activities or modifications of existing activities, material management and fabrication needs as well as training and ongoing coaching of students, volunteers, and teen interns, it would be great to have an additional museum educator to help coordinate and facilitate the program.

A.A. - (Design Quest) The staffing level last summer was just about perfect (three paid students plus 8 teen volunteers). Monika: Ingenuity Lab was part of the exhibit last summer. Because of this we had additional staff, volunteers, and teens in the space which worked really well.

S.H. - (TechHive) Because of the intensity of the work, supervision of power tool use, and need to support apprenticeship learning, it would be great to have one facilitator for 6-8 students.

Q: What ages do you design your main challenge for and what age do you expect will use the exploration stations? Do parents work with multiple aged kids at the same time?  
A: M.M. - We design our challenges for all ages. We mainly see 4-12 year olds with their parents or caregivers. The exploration stations with ages 3-7 in mind; however, we invite open it to everybody. When parent with younger children enter the Lab we encourage them to go to the exploration station first.

Q: How did you decide how long to stay open? 
A: M.M. - Monika: Our goal was to offer more programs were the whole family can engage. 12:00-4:00pm on Saturday and Sundays as well as on Holidays and school breaks is usually a busy time and works really well for families. When we relocate the Ingenuity Lab to the floor for the summer programs we offer programming from 11-3:00pm with optional programming from 3-5:00pm (depending on staff, volunteer & teen intern availability). This works well for families and the summer camp groups that we serve during this time of the year.

Q: How often do you change the components in the exhibit area?  
A: A.A. - We’re going to try to add one new component plus one upgraded component each time we put it up. This time, the new component was the wind turbine stations, and the upgraded component was the new stop-motion animation station. This was probably just a bit too ambitious for our staffing level, but we’ll see how it plays out in future cycles.

Q: Can you tell us more about the white board animation station?  
A: A.A. - The original stop motion stations were one each of two different configurations: top-down camera (‘bombardier’ style) and front camera (‘cinematic’ style). The whiteboard animation station is a copy of the top-down camera station with a whiteboard embedded in the surface of the table. It required a new lighting scheme (extreme oblique lighting) because of the reflectivity of the whiteboard. The station has washable dry-erase markers for drawing, as well as some articulated cardboard figures (human, dog, cat) to use as characters. (I learned while making some sample movies that it’s INCREDIBLY arduous to animate a character using the whiteboard, where you have to erase and redraw the character for each frame. So we learned that there were certain uses the pens were good for, but that we ought to also have objects to move around as in the other stations.) There are two display monitors that show sample movies from each station.

Technically, the stations use iStopMotion on a Mac mini. The old stations have keyboard emulator boards that translate button pushes into keystrokes, which then trigger Applescripts that tell the computer what to do. This is really overloading the capabilities of Applescript, especially in terms of handling the rapid button-hammering that some kids do. So the new version uses an Arduino to handle the buttons; it throttles the button-hammering before anything reaches the Mac, and as a result it crashes much less frequently! I’m going to upgrade the old stations with Arduinos when I get around to it.)

Q: How long do visitors typically spend building in your space? 
A: M.M. - Monika (Ingenuity Lab) The Ingenuity Lab was very popular from the day it opened. Visitors stay on average just above 30min. Many visitors stay for many hours and come back on a regular basis.

A.A. - (Design Quest) A loooooong time, relatively speaking! 20 minutes is common, a couple hours is not uncommon, and we hear stories from the front desk that people are buying memberships expressly so they can come back to spend time in Design Quest.

Q: Do you see a difference in male/female participation in your spaces? 
A: M.M. - (Ingenuity Lab) We see about the same numbers of female/male participation in the Lab.

S.H. - (TechHive) We specifically recruit for a diversity of students including gender diversity so half of the spaces are for girls. We recruit from girl-only schools too. We also try to have female role models in the space (whether they are undergrad helpers or Hall staff who are invited to facilitate special sessions). A general design principle for promoting equity is to design constructive-oriented activities that can support multiple narratives, so a story can unfold whether the narrative is more stereotypical male or female like battle of bots, racing games, saving animals, helping a friend, finding a cure, etc.

Q: Allan mentioned 1-2 new things developed for the exhibit floor / what are you working on next? 
A: A.A. - We don’t know yet! A likely candidate would be hydraulics, but we’ll see. A likely candidate for upgrades would be Automata; we hired a new shop supervisor in mid-2013 and he has some new ideas he’d like to try out.

Q: What is in the pipeline for TechHive? 
A: S.H. - We have a couple directions planned with the "Make, Teach, Share" model. We are exploring the idea of doing client-based projects. We did an experiment with the Happy Hollow Zoo who needed a solution to develop music for a ride. This was a great way to get the teens engaged in a project in the community and provide a context for using Arduinos, sensors, and some wood carpentry. We would like to enter some video competitions and explore ways to have teens tell the stories of scientists and engineers they interview on the UC Berkeley campus. On the immediate horizon, we are developing "Techtorials", or mini-workshops 2 hours long that focus on one skill or aspect of making, facilitated by teens for younger audiences and families; and a haunted house build in partnership with a school called the "Town of Terror."

Mimi Ito reference - Here's a nice video of her talking about homago:

Q: Will you be presenting at ASTC 2014? 
A: Yes! Here are sessions in which one or more of us are participating: