Being towed down the road at 35 miles an hour, the silver trailer looks like it might be headed for a university residence hall during move-in day, or maybe even a football tailgate. But this 12-foot mobile carrier has a much more precious cargo inside. Things like ideas, curiosity, creativity, and opportunity.
Civic Nebraska partner Beyond School Bells unveiled the latest of its “makerspaces on wheels,” officially known as Think, Make, Create labs, on Feb. 12 at Nebraska Innovation Campus. Starting this spring, the mobile lab and one more just like it will be in Civic Nebraska’s hands to add to its after-school programs in Lincoln and Omaha.
The labs are inspired by traditional brick-and-mortar makerspaces – those areas inside schools, libraries or other facilities stocked with high-tech to low-tech to no-tech tools that emphasize building, learning, exploring and sharing.
Omaha’s Think, Make, Create lab will be introduced to Sherman Elementary, 5618 N. 14th Ave., at 4:30 p.m. April 10; Lothrop Elementary, 3300 N. 22nd St., at 4:15 p.m. May 3; and Lewis & Clark Middle School, 6901 Burt St., at 4 p.m. April 12. Lincoln’s mobile makerspace will be rolled out at Campbell Elementary, 2200 Dodge St., at 4 p.m. April 24; and Dawes Middle School, 5130 Colfax Ave., at 4 p.m. April 19.
Kent Day, Civic Nebraska’s director of civic engagement programs, said Civic Nebraska also will roll into neighborhood gatherings, maker fairs and a range of other pop-up activities throughout the year.
Flexibility is key: Schools can use the lab as a full-time resource however it works best, Day said. Imagine a sixth-grade class unit on robotics, for example: A teacher could take a bin of robotics equipment from the trailer’s ample shelving space and bring it into the classroom.
Wherever and however the labs might be used, Day said, they will have an instant impact with students of all ages and backgrounds.
“It’s well-known that it’s important to start introducing kids to these kinds of opportunities early,” Day said. “It’s equally clear that kids in underserved communities might not have access to the kinds of STEM opportunities that others might. In these kids’ homes, you’re not going to find a robot, or a drone. Or a chemistry set. That will all be in here.”
Beyond School Bells’ first eight labs have been dispatched to mainly rural areas. The labs under Civic Nebraska’s care will be the first to be used in Lincoln and Omaha.
“We know Civic Nebraska has already come up with some great ideas that we haven’t seen in any of the other communities,” said Jeff Cole, Beyond School Bells’ vice president of school-community partnerships. “It’s really important to have partners who will make full use of the lab, so we’re very pleased to be working with Civic Nebraska.
“They’re a fantastic partner because of their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, and we know they’ll inspire other communities (in the program) to move forward in new and interesting ways.”