Hello World

Can maker spaces change the world?

February 21, 2022 Hello World Season 3 Episode 2
Hello World
Can maker spaces change the world?
Show Notes Transcript

Following on from our last episode in which we explored the role of maker spaces in schools, in this episode we take a wider look at maker spaces and examine their impact on local communities. James and Carrie Anne look at how learning to "make" can have a real-world impact and change the world for the better.

Full show notes:
https://helloworld.raspberrypi.org/articles/can-maker-spaces-change-the-world

Vaibhav Chhabra:

And watching all the zombie movies in the The time is now we got to get to work right now.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Kind of, if you build it, they will come.

Richa Shrivastava:

Second wave with the M-19 initiative with a We also did the same thing with oxygen concentrators?

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Hello, and welcome back to the Hello World I'm Carrie Anne Philbin, a Computing content creator, and digital maker.

James Robinson:

And I'm James Robinson. A Computing educator solving problems. I'm working on projects promoting effective pedagogy within our subject such as our recently published Big Book of Computing Pedagogy, which is available digitally for free at helloworld.cc/bigbook. Also, if you'd want to support our show then please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and please leave us a five star review.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

James last episode, we spoke with two their schools and they brought making into their curriculum. We uncovered the how and the why to some extent around maker spaces in education. So today we're asking can maker spaces has changed the world. No pressure. So, as our pedagogy expert, why is it important to think about real-world impact, when teaching through making.

James Robinson:

And I think, yeah, it's a very big question, break that down a little bit. I think, first of all, we know that real-world impact is something that drives motivation for many Learners. Lots of Learners are motivated by seeing the real-world impact of the things that they are making and learning about. So we know that and in fact, that's one of the pedagogical principles that underpins a lot of the work we do here at the foundation. We talk about making things concrete. So, giving people tangible experiences that means something to them in their context. So, solving a problem in their local area, with their Community, not only benefits that Community but it also helps those Learners see the, the, the impact of what they're learning. And I think particularly, when we think about maker spaces, when we're making physical artefacts, we are making things Concrete in the sense that we are we're bringing something a subject in Computing that's quite it's quite abstract. A lot of the things we create are digital and have no substance. And so actually we're bringing it into the Physical Realm. We're connecting, you know, Computing with materials and Material Science and creativity. And then the last thing that I would say that I think is it's really not to be kind of underestimated. Is the fact that making builds so many more skills than the subject specific skills, you're learning through Computing, for example. Our Engineers, our scientists, our inventors and entrepreneurs of the future. They all need those skills of being able to develop an idea to prototype it to test it, to refine it and also work collaboratively with others. And so, I think maker spaces are a real furtive ground where where our Learners could develop a lot of those skills and see the impact of what they're learning. So, that's kind of my, my big thoughts on this on that question.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

So as usual you have a lot to say on the

James Robinson:

I'm never I'm never quiet Carrie Anne. What are your? What are your thoughts? How do you see maker spaces having an impact on on Learners and The Wider Community?

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Yeah, I think everything you said really I think you know, making is more than just a tool for engaging young people. Right? You know, we talked a lot about in our last episode about how it can Inspire young people and get them really excited about subjects like computer Science and engineering and Mathematics. But and you touched on this, I think the thing that's more important to me is that all of our young people have a better understanding of the world around us and how that world works and how they can impact on on the world through technology. I think one of the hardest things for educators is it is not the motivation piece, right? You can set up a Maker space you can you can engage in digital making with your young people. I thin the harder part is the inspiration piece is the is the world around us. It's the having the wider societal impact and being able to connect the two. So I think we're very very fortunate today in that we have invited and we're so lucky to have joining us two guests who have first-hand experience of the impact, the positive impact that maker spaces can have on Learners and on The Wider community in Mumbai in India, so I'm very pleased to welcome Vaibhav Chhabra, who is a mechanical engineer, passionate Carpenter and founder of Makers Asylum. A community space focused on fostering Innovation through Hands-On learning, providing education in areas of Hardware, design and sustainability. So welcome. Where did your passion for making come from? And what led you to found Makers Asylum?

Vaibhav Chhabra:

Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I'm super excited to be here, bit of a follower, and lover of Hello World. And Raspberry Pis growing up. So it's an absolute pleasure to be here. I'm a mechanical engineer, but before mechanical engineer, I grew up in India, and I used to spend, most of my Summers making things or doing something or the other. Well, I would rather say, I used to be breaking stuff, trying to make things but I didn't really know how to make them or put them back together. So like, they're bunch of times when I was growing up. I remember opening up cell phones and my PlayStation or my cycle. And I never knew how to put it back together properly. So that's when I really thought that I'm going to go into engineering school to try and figure that part out and that got me to Boston. I started studying at Boston University and had the opportunity of being there with a lot of really, really cool people learning and making things and that's around the time. When this really, really cool, Maker space called Artisan's Asylum is also based out of Somerville that I used to spend a bunch of my time in. It was more like my second home. There was Danger Awesome. Another Makerspace in Cambridge. There was The Tinkering Lab inside Boston University. And then I also got the opportunity to start working with a start-up at MIT Media labs called EyeNetra which had a maker space inside it. So there was so many maker spaces everywhere and there was so much action when it came to having access to tools. So I think I did have a want and passion towards making and breaking since childhood. But my real aspect of community and real aspect of what, really, the feeling of making is and why is it so much more that came in when I was in Boston?

James Robinson:

And can you tell us a bit more about the came about after all of our experience.

Vaibhav Chhabra:

Right after? So, while I was working for the making these mobile Eye diagnostic devices sort of like a virtual reality device. But to give you an eye test, using a smartphone, and so they asked me to come back to India and to a new city called Mumbai which I had never been to before growing up. And so, I landed up over here, straight from Boston and started working on prototyping this device, and making it for the local community over here, because the device had more of an impact in India than it did in Boston because it was like a portable Eye diagnostic device that you could take around to Villages and really make it sort of accessible for people here. And that was the thought. But it also came with its own challenges because a lot of the stuff that worked in Boston, did not work over here. So we didn't have the same kind of sort of environment for the device. We didn't have the same kind of clean spaces. We didn't have the same kind of Machining tools as well to be able to fix it. We don't have the same kind of access to 3D printers for example to be able to print out another part and put it in every time the device would break down, I had to order our parts either from Boston or go to a service provider in India who would charge me a bomb and take like weeks and then just send me the final product and it wasn't fun, being a maker or being an engineer. I wanted to be part of the making process. I wanted it to be made in front of me, so I can figure out where did it go wrong? Or how can I make it better next time when you work with a service provider? You just get this final little beautiful thing in the mail.

James Robinson:

I really, I really relate to that as well. I think, as a maker, I'm quite impatient. So having to wait for someone to kind of send me something I want to be making now.

Vaibhav Chhabra:

Exactly. I wanted to be happening in front of

James Robinson:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Also, joining us from Shrivastava who d- drives strategic collaborations and Partnerships for Makers Asylum. She believes the future of learning is evolving and alternate spaces will be significant in customising people's learning Journeys. Richa, can you tell us a little bit more about the education programs that Makers Asylum run and how they came about.

Richa Shrivastava:

Traditionally when Makers Asylum started, It was I think one of the first Community maker spaces that was established in India. So it started very organically concept as a concept as well. And a lot of people really came to use this space. So it started out of 100 square feet garage space. Then it slowly slowly moved into much larger spaces, but the idea was to sort of, obviously, share tools and bring the community together. But I think what happened over the years is that a lot of people started coming to the space to learn about these tools because a lot of people did not know how to use a 3D printer. They did not know how to use a laser cutter. A lot of people also did not know how to use a carpentry shop for example, you know. Like so there was a lot of the interest sort of came about in learning about these things. We started doing workshops. We started doing, you know, smaller programs and then we started realising how important is this whole, you know cycle of sort of you know talking about making but also teaching and passing it on to other people. And that's when we started thinking a little bit deeper into how we could really work across board to teach people to how to integrate technology for creating impactful Solutions, designing these programs, which had the element of making core to it, but also relied a lot on, you know, these maker tools so that somebody could go from ideation to actually making very quickly, sort of came about. So we've been doing various kinds of things. So from even like smaller workshops, like for example, the other day this weekend. We were making a boat using a sheet metal and origami paper folds. So it's literally like, DIY boat. That could actually go into the water. So they make interesting things that sort of caught the attention of a lot of people in India. And a lot of people started coming to this space and then we sort of progressed into designing much larger programs, as well. Where we work on sustainability for example with now alumni in over 40 countries through our program STG school where we bring together interdisciplinary groups to work on the UN sustainable, development goals, and then we also work with teens for example, now with our program, Innovation schools, to help them really understand applications of you know, various skills and then apply to something that they're passionate about.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

You talk there a lot about you. Kind of if you build it they will come and it sounds like you had lots of different types of people come to your Maker space. One of the things I'm really interested in is intergenerational kind of skill sharing. So did you find that? You had people who came to the Maker space who perhaps had some level of experience and wanted to share that with others? Or did you find that that you were kind of teaching everybody of all different ages, kind of these new skills.

Richa Shrivastava:

I think I'll take that first and I'll pass a lot that went in the beginning, the champions of the maker culture in India would say, because they were the space originally was designed for adults. I mean, we'd never thought about children when it, you know, initially when it started. So I think the earlier part of when Makers Asylum was getting established. And a lot of people were come into this space, there was a lot of sharing of knowledge that was happening between the people that were coming in so they were lot of interdisciplinary, kind kind of folks that were also there. Somebody was great with hardware, somebody was great with software. Somebody was great with wood, you know, somebody was great, was a great artist. So it was a mix of various kinds of people that have come to this pace over the years. So now I'm passing on off knowledge to each other and sort of collaborating on that level to really make things together, which are, you know, locally also relevant for, you know, the problems around you as well.

Vaibhav Chhabra:

Yeah. I completely agree. I mean, there's a role that's called Chief Learning officer because I'm always learning stuff I think and that's the best part of like being in a place like me. I'm super lucky to be there is because there's so many people who come to the Maker space. I mean that doing such amazing projects. They're doing such amazing work. There are so many people who have retired who are coming to the maker space as well. There are people coming as young as 13 years of age, but have super amount of knowledge about making. So it's super cool to be able to constantly keep learning from them. And I think, since the beginning, that's been the case since day one of Makers Asylum. It never started as a place where we wanted to impart knowledge or teach. It was more like we were learning and we were sharing that knowledge with more people so that all of us could learn together and share that knowledge.

James Robinson:

I love that the title that you have there. The Chief Learning Officer. It's not only it's sort of modelling learning as well. And that's really important. I'm really interested reflecting on that. What are some of the things that over the past? I don't know, year, couple of years. What have you learned from from from running Makers Asylum, either about learning itself or about your community, or...

Vaibhav Chhabra:

Well, I've learned a lot of different tools. That's, of course, one of the things that you do at a maker space. So I've learned anything from programming drones to working with electronics and Robotics. I've learned about welding. I've learned about carpentry I've learned about design I've learned about all sorts of stuff. What I've learned a lot about is how to work with people. And that's one more very, very important skill that I've picked up over the years because all of a sudden, now you have so many people from different backgrounds coming up. Everyone has their own agenda of some sort of the other. So how do you actually manage that aspect? Because at the end of the day, when you're running a place like Makers Asylum or a Maker space, it's like running Disneyland where people from all different parts of the place are coming in and expecting to see magic. What yours is doing at the back end is trying to make that magic happen, but at the same time, you're managing a lot of different different things. Allow that magic to happen and allowing and also not allowing it to fall apart or burn down or so many things that can go wrong. While you're also learning how to deal with people. You're also learning about how to manage an organisation, how to organise a business and things like that, and how to keep it sustainable. And those are some of the things that I've learned over the years quite a bit. It's been quite exciting. I'm still learning how to run that and it's great to have Richa by my side because she has a lot more knowledge when it comes to running a business. So we're both able to somehow manage the chaos.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

You've talked a lot about this being a real and it feels very in person. I would imagine that the the pandemic that the global pandemic has probably had quite an impact on the way in which you run Makers Asylum and what you did. How did you respond to the pandemic? Did you do anything differently or you know, did you you move towards providing PPE? Like what was the what how did that change for you?

Vaibhav Chhabra:

The first thing that you think about growing world is like the time is now, we got to get to work right now. I remember like I was jumping up and down and I didn't want to go back home and then passing it on to Richa.

Richa Shrivastava:

Yeah. It was like, it was like the scene from there's nobody on the streets. The makers unite, you know what that's exactly what happened. So I think what we did differently was we decided to not go back home and just stay over at the space so that we could use the tools and do something that do something at that point. And I think one of the one of the first thing that started happening just like everywhere else in the world. Now that we realise across the world different maker spaces did the same thing. I believe that we also started helping out our local communities our Frontline workers with you know, things like face shields in the beginning. The the exciting part of what happened in that time was that we were able to actually open source the designs, just like anybody else would do in the community and activate over 42 cities towns and villages in India who had access to a laser cutting machine. And we were able to go from a zero to a million face Shields in 49 days, which was a very quick turnaround time for a small maker space, you know to do that.

Vaibhav Chhabra:

She makes it sound simple. It wasn't like I mean, the entire city was in a lockdown. Like, you know, and right at the beginning, we were looking at what's happening out there and there was news about how bad the PPE system was. There was hardly any PPE available in the country. And India was also just like every other part of the world importing from China and China stopped sending stuff. So it was time that we started making in-house and it was time that we started making quickly. And at a time, like this, you can't think traditionally like most businesses were all trying to think about how they can create a more and manufacture or design while at a Maker space we were going from rapid prototyping. We were trying out different designs. That's the time when we started looking around in the open source ecosystem and we found out about the 3D printed face shields and we said oh that's cool. But that's really slow. I mean, it's going to take 40 minutes to make one face shield. How do we make that faster? And we had access to a laser cutter? So we said, hey, you know what? Let's make designs which are laser-cuttable back in the day. I this is around the 23rd of March there weren't any laser-cut designs that point. So we started sharing our designs with back in the community, the global Community like of open-source medical supplies. Our friends at Artisan's Asylum and everywhere. We were started, sharing our laser cut designs. They were like, oh, this is cool. So we started going with these laser cut face shields to hospitals after that, but not really, we didn't go to the hospitals because we were scared to enter the hospital, but we went to the doctor's houses and showed them our designs and got feedback from them. We got like a lot of feedback because just to give you an example, the first couple of designs we made were in MDF and MDF happens to be a really, really bad material for an ICU or a hospital setting. I mean, it's completely porous. It's going to keep all sorts of bacteria inside it. That's when we move to acrylic and we realise how brittle it is and how like not usable it is in a hospital environment. As well, because a doctor was wearing one of our face shields made out of acrylic and it just broke and flew off. We discovered and we hit upon this very, very exciting material called sun board or foam board. Now, foam board is a very interesting material because it's available commonly across India and across the world in every stationary shop because it's used a lot for marketing material. It happens to be waterproof and it happens to be laser countable. So and super light and flexible as well. So it had all the key things that we required to be able to use it, to make face Shields very quickly using laser cutters. So what we did is we use all that knowledge. We started sharing it really quickly. And started making these really crazy videos every night about announcing how many we have made in a day, which started to catch a lot of traction and other maker spaces that are joining us. Very quickly. We went from zero maker spaces to 42 maker spaces went from making just a few hundred face shields spending day and night. To making almost 100,000 face Shields a day reaching to a million shields in about 49 days, precisely by creating this Consortium.

James Robinson:

What's really nice about that? That sort of story and of how that could have all came about. I mean, we can- connect back to what we started talking about the beginning of the show about about impact in the real world. And we talked about, like speed of, you know, as makers, we're quite impatient. So we want things to move quickly. And so, not relying on Supply chains, but being able to kind of solve those problems ourselves and I think because you wrote about this in Hello World, but I think I remember reading that, you know, you had individual children in like bedrooms or small locations dotted around India that were printing or sorry, cutting their own face shields. So, you know, your step there, those young individuals those Learners are seeing the impact of being part of that community. And that's a really powerful story.

Vaibhav Chhabra:

Thank you. Yes, the youngest member of The made 344 Shields with his family. There were filmmakers and ... were making face shields inside in a universe- No, their houses at their houses. There was a university making face shields, there were small businesses making face shields and it was crazy because the demand was so high. We literally, I remember when we were in Bombay now, Bombay or Mumbai is completely filled with, you know, it's a packed City. It's like Manhattan, And and the the population is really, really high, and it was completely dead. And we had ambulances and police Personnel parked outside of Makers Asylum, like in their cars waiting to pick up face Shields from our space, like, literally we had a line of Polic- police Personnel, ambulances. They would take it in ambulances and transport it for us because that's the only vehicle that was allowed on the street, which is intense. I mean, we were living through all of those times and seeing this happen. So it was obvious that at a time like this, there was no way to sort of make in one place and ship you had to make locally for the local ecosystem and what better way to do that than digital Manufacturing in maker spaces.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Absolutely.

James Robinson:

And of course you've mentioned open source know put big smile on Carrie Anne and myself face it with it. We're big Advocates of of all things open source. It's really nice to kind of hear how that sort of helped Drive the project. That's really interesting.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

And one of the things you described so nicely we struggle with which is, is this rapid prototyping and testing cycle, you know, we teach young people when we're teaching them technology that, you know, you come up with your idea and you sort of create a little bit and then you test it in and you iterate and you kind of go on this cycle and sometimes young people can't understand why and I think with the what you've just described is exactly how these skills. These prototyping these design skills, the testing aspect which you talked about just constant testing and how that can take you from Zero to Hero, right? Get you from A to B really quickly. And really well.

Vaibhav Chhabra:

Yeah, imagine working with a service provider come in. Won't Work, you had to get out access to those tools. Right.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Yeah. And are these then the skills that the programs that you run like the Innovation program.

Richa Shrivastava:

Yeah, that's right. I mean we are focusing. Exactly. On, whatever we've learned from the process of you know, making with the M-19 initiative with the face Shields. We also did the same thing with oxygen concentrators in the second wave which was around sort of again using distributed manufacturing and open sourcing design. Then we actually made an oxygen concentrator in about six weeks, and we had four iterations of it, which is a fairly complex device versus a face shield. And there were over 150 organisations who were part of that open research brainstorming because everything was happening in open fashion. So I think what, what what we really have been focusing on is to take this real-world knowledge that, you know, we gain on a daily basis through various projects and people and the community that we meet to actually translate that into something that we pass it on to the younger generation because they're going to be the ones who are going to be holding fort in the future to solve for these problems. And the most important piece over there is to sort of build that mindset around making. And to look at problems with empathy and, you know, really not just make but make with, you know, some kind of purpose and passion.

James Robinson:

So I really like how there's that that sort Innovation that's going on with one part of the maker space and the learning on the other and how you're able to bring that learning from from one space to the other really rapidly and model that learning process. So so Vaibhav for you has that been a deliberate sort of sort of philosophy or strategic thing kind of bring those those those two aspects of making and learning together. Yeah. What's your take on.

Vaibhav Chhabra:

Deliberate? I'm not sure but it has been a because being a maker and being somebody who likes to constantly be working on projects, we-. We are constantly working on different different projects. So we're able to learn a lot from there to be able to bring it into our education world and pass that knowledge on. So again passing on and sharing the knowledge in a community way, but what I also feel that is that unless you actually make something you feel unqualified to make that and to be able to only get that feeling out, you need to get started in making something. And that's something that we've learned. And I've personally really, it's helped me. Because when I started to make stuff, it made me more confident to be able to make so many more things. Students and young talents who are coming to maker spaces, they're able to start with simple projects? Even if it's taking an open source, design, and 3D printing it, even if it's as simple as that.They're building confidence. The fact that they can do it. They can use that machine and they can make this happen. And I think that is very powerful for me.

James Robinson:

Thank you. That's a really is a really Thank you.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

If you have a question for us or a comment Then you can email via podcast at helloworld .cc or you can tweet us at HelloWorld_edu. My thanks to Vaibhav and Richa from Makers Asylum for sharing their expertise and experience with us today. This has been just a such an inspiring conversation. You can read more about their work in issue 17 of Hello World magazine. So James, what did we learn today?

James Robinson:

Well, for me, I think this really reinforced motivating Learners, and I think if I was an educator in a classroom, I would be finding my nearest Maker space or starting my own. And also looking into the community to find the real world problems and challenges that might engage my students. How about you?

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Well, I've learned is come the zombie