IBiB: Building boats and making waves

If you are a regular reader, you know that I recently started a makerspace in Brockport called It Begins in Brockport (IBiB). We are only a month old and have come a long way in that short time. We’ve equipped our space – one of the studios at the Hart Art Gallery – with 3D printers (both filament and resin), an electronics workbench and a laser cutter. There’s also a CNC mill that is still a work in progress and we recently received a grant for a high-end vinyl cutter. On Friday, we received something truly special.

That’s a makercart (along with Kaitlyn and Mark) from TeacherGeek, a local company that makes STEM educational activities. The cart – valued at $8000 comes with about 15000 bits and pieces (gears, rods, frame, motors, connectors, switches, screws, and more) that can be used to engage students in well over 30 engineering activities.

Of course, there was no way I was going to just let all that fun just sit there. Fortunately for me, the gallery was celebrating some Erie Canal themed artwork by the local fourth graders, and they were here to see their work in the gallery. Once they visited the gallery (and grabbed some cookies), they stopped by the makerspace to see what we have to offer.

It was pretty easy to set up an activity where the kids needed to make a table full of gears, and make a laser cut mule rotate around in a merry-go-round fasion.

Why a mule? Well it’s time for the Low Bridge High Water festival in Brockport. On Saturday, June 10th, we celebrated the opening of the canal to navigational traffic with food, music and building boats! We set up a table by the canal, pulled the relevant bits and pieces from the makercart, and filled a kiddy pool to test out the designs. What I find particularly fun about this activity is that the instructions guide the kids through making the mast and assembling the motor for the boat, but they don’t tell the kids how to make the hull. Instead, they encourage them to use recycled materials such as pool noodles, bottles and plastic trays. Most of our visitors liked the pool noodles.

We had a group of teenagers help us out with the event. They hopped in some kayaks to retrieve boats that got too far away from the edge of the canal for us to recover. It took a bit of figuring things out, though:

Surprisingly, it wasn’t a goner, and with a bit of drying out and tape replacement, the boat was back in action. I challenged the kids to try to get their boat to go all the way across the canal, and only one boat attempted the challenge. It was quite a unique design, utilizing two motors and some taped up packaging material from window blinds. It took a while, but the boat did make it to the other side of the canal! I don’t have footage of that success, but here we are launching it.

Our maiden voyage in makerspace outreach was a huge success, and I think everyone who visited our table had a fun time. It showcases what we envision as a way to help Brockport community members and visitors to have fun while exploring their creativity through making. IBiB is grateful for the generous donation from TeacherGeek, and we are looking forward to organizing more engaging activities with the makercart in the future. I’d also like to thank Bill Ball (below) along with Susan Smith and Zak Robinson who serve on the board of directors and have helped me get this project rolling.

As I mentioned above, IBiB has only been around for a month, but in that short time, I think we are already making a positive impact on the community. As we enter the next phase of development, encouraging paying members to work on projects and seeking patrons to support our outreach efforts, we invite you to consider how you can get involved. IBiB’s (young) website can be found at https://ibib.us/ which has membership information as well as a calendar for upcoming events.

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