SparkTruck: Taking Making on the Road

Meet SparkTruck, an "educational build-mobile" for the twenty-first century.

Dreamed up by a group of Stanford students and funded through Kickstarter, SparkTruck is a mobile maker space currently traveling across the United States. At schools and summer camps and libraries around the country, the SparkTruck team offers workshops to help kids "find their inner maker" as they design and build projects like stamps, stop-motion animation clips, and "vibrobots."

This might seem all shiny and new. And it is—but only in part. What's so striking (and exciting) about SparkTruck is the way it combines old and new. It does so in the tools it gets kids using, which range from pipe cleaners to laser cutters. It does so in its educational approach, which combines cutting-edge (get it?) STEM and design pedagogy with the fundamentals of an old-school shop class. And it does so in its method, which combines the iconic, century-old technology of the bookmobile with the hot new form of the maker space.

In doing so, SparkTruck joins a growing number of libraries which are combining time-tested principles (like equal access to information) with new technologies (like 3-D printers), putting in maker spaces and media production labs alongside bookshelves and meeting rooms. As I've argued over on, these combinations make sense because reading and making actually have a lot in common. They're both creative processes that take existing materials and combine them in new ways. Getting people engaged in those kinds of processes—through imaginative thinking, contemplation, hands-on problem-solving, and collaborative learning—is what both maker spaces and libraries are all about.

Taking that commitment on the road with scissors and hammers and 3-D printers and a great big bookmobile-like truck, SparkTruck serves as a laboratory for new approaches, as well as a reminder that trying new things doesn't have to (and probably shouldn't!) necessarily mean tossing old ones out.

After all, what would those vibrobots be without classically crafty pipe cleaners and tongue depressors? And what would a library be without the creative, participatory, straight-up awesome experience of reading?

SparkTruck schedule []

How to arrange a visit from SparkTruck []

SparkTruck YouTube channel []

—Derek Attig,