posts tagged with the keyword ‘science’



I attended a session at ASTC 2015 titled Are Maker Spaces Killing the Traditional Science Center? Is That a Bad Thing? and while I’m new to the museum world, I’m not new to the makerspace world, but this whole idea of “makerspace in another space” is what the session was about. This post is really just going to be a stream of my own thoughts after the session.

Hooley McLaughlin from the Ontario Science Centre was the moderator and he was anti-makerspace in the context of a science center, where (he believes) the real spark of science can be ignited in young minds. I don’t know much about science centers or the people who work there, but Hooley seems to place “science” (or perhaps just the teaching of science) in this ivory tower, and separate “Science” from other forms of exploration and discovery. The things than happen in a “tinkering” space or a “maker” space are not real science, and there isn’t true learning.

I’ve been involved with Milwaukee Makerspace for nearly five years, and before that I was part of Bucketworks, which is/was a quasi-hackerspace, and I’ve had this idea that BAMspace at Betty Brinn Children’s Museum) Makerspaces tend to be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with everything available to members at any time. 6am on Sunday morning? 3pm on a weekday? Saturday night from 10pm to 4am? Those are all valid times to be at a makerspace working on things. Spaces in an institution are typically limited by staffing, just having people available to be in charge of things. And people like to go home and sleep every now and then, and not work 24 hours a day… also, when people do work, they like to get paid. So the first big disconnect is “makerspace open all the time to members who are self-serving” versus “makerspace that is available during only specific times with staff to guide things.” I’m not saying the second option can’t work, it can, but for people who know what a makerspace is as it exists outside of an institution, reconciling how they operate inside an institution may difficult.

Perhaps it’s just a matter of managing expectations. If the first exposure to a makerspace is within an institution, that can set the stage for what one is, and how it works. (There’s the issue of the term “makerspace” being co-opted or misunderstood, but I won’t get into that now.) Limited access due to hours, staffing, etc. can definitely affect the reach of a space/program, but as most of the institutional makerspaces seem to focus on kids (or families) maybe it’s a non-issue.

Ultimately, my favorite comment during the session pretty much summed things up. “We shouldn’t care how kids get interested in science, as long as they get interested.” My own take on that is, I try things, and make things, and fail, and learn, and in the end, I share those things. I share them with others, and if they get inspired, even just a small bit, than it’s a success. If someone gets interested in robotics, or looks up what an Arduino is, or asks a question about 3D printers, then that’s good enough for me. It’s a spark, and a spark is the start of something. It may not be the spark that (certain) people at science centers are hoping for, but it’s a success in my book.



Dammit, we need to get NASA a penny! And by that I mean, we need to increase NASA’s budget to 1% (up from 0.5%) and if you’re wondering why, check out WTF NASA!? for some of the things NASA has done to improve our lives over the years.

(BTW, we’re currently spending way more on the military than on science in the US. I’m not a fan of that.)

Check out, for more info, and watch the sweet video below. If you are then so inclined, throw some cash at it.


Whistle #1

One of the first things I printed on the RepRaster 5000 was a whistle, you know, in case there was an emergency soccer game or something. To my amazement I took it off the bed and blew into it and it worked! I had just printed a fully functional whistle, and thusly declared The Future™ to be here.

Whistle #1 was a little rough. It worked, but it didn’t look very beautiful. (Well, beautiful by 3D printing with plastic filament standards.) After some tweaking and calibrating I printed Whistle #2 and it sounded just like Whistle #1 but looked a little better. An improvement!

Whistle #2

That brings us to Whistle #3. As any good RepRapper knows, you can’t just leave well enough alone, and if you’re happy with your slicing settings, you’re doing something wrong. With this in mind I set about changing all the numbers in Slic3r and then attempted to print another whistle.

When I popped Whistle #3 off the bed and blew into it… nothing. Well, not nothing, just the sound of air, minus the sweet whistling sound. I recently told my kids that failure is just a part of the learning process, so I wasn’t ready to quit.

I got a knife and made sure to cut out any stray filament from the bridging during printing. Still no go. I decided to rinse the whistle out thinking maybe there were bits of plastic inside. (Yeah, at this point I was just grasping.) Lo and behold, with the water inside my whistle totally worked! There’s a fine line between science and magic, and I’ll get to that in a minute.

Whistle #3

I’m no Whistlologist, but my first guess was that the volume of air inside the whistle was too much and preventing it from operating properly, perhaps due to the lower infill I used when printing. I ended up being totally wrong about this. It had nothing to do with the volume of air (duh!) but everything to do with where the air was going!

It seems that the crappy print actually left some gaps in the top of the object, which happened to be the left side of the whistle. By putting water inside it was temporarily filling the holes. I could get the same effect by just giving a slight squeeze on the left side of the whistle with my thumb to block the airflow. Zing! Magic whistle. (Magic is just science you don’t understand, right?)

I then hatched a plan to trick the kids by having them try to blow into it, and then telling them they were doing it wrong, and then showing them how it’s done. I wonder if they’d see me squeezing the side or not.

Now I’m left thinking I need to design a new whistle with intentional holes. Anyway, that’s the sort of crazy stuff I do. You’re welcome!



Don’t worry kids… it’s all in the name of SCIENCE!


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