Mario, the action figure, sits atop a paper rocket while a group of kids eagerly wait to blast him off. A loud pop fills the room and the rocket, along with Mario, shoots from a launcher, soaring high towards the ceiling and skimming the bottom of a light fixture.
One boy, the owner of both Mario and the red and green decorated rocket, leads the pack of running and screaming kids across the room as they check to see if Mario’s OK.
“Mario made it,” shouts the boy to the rest of the group; everyone cheers.
While this all might seem like an afternoon adventure a la The Goonies, it’s actually part of a programming series put on by The Makery.
Part of a two-week pop-up series held in the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn, The Makery seeks to teach both kids and adults how to use interesting technology such as 3D printing, video game programming, flying helicopters and the crowd pleasing rocket launching.
“We decided to go with a pop-up model to sort of test out the market for a makerspace,” said Jon Santiago, one of the educators who is running The Makery, when we stopped by to visit on a sunny Thursday afternoon. “We’ve always wanted to have a storefront, but we thought we’d start in a place where we could get a two-week lease and see how it goes.”
And so far the response has been positive. The Makery began its two-week pop-up last Monday, August 13th, and had three or four kids registered. At the start of this week the number had risen to sixteen. While all of these figures may seem slightly modest, that was exactly the goal for the staff at The Makery.
“We didn’t really do much advertising because we wanted to keep it small so that we could really spend time teaching the kids,” said Jaymes Dec another educator at The Makery. “We’ve had several open houses where parents kind of stopped by and were like ‘What’s this?'”
In addition to the daytime instruction for kids ages eight and up there are evening workshops for adults.
The pop-up, which ends this Sunday, is part of a growing community of makerspaces cropping up around the country, all seeking to meld education and technology into fun yet teachable programs for kids and adults. Some libraries are also catching on to the idea and have begun to serve as local incubators for makerspaces that don’t want to have to grapple with long-term leasing costs.
The Makery has already received a few emails from local libraries interested in working with them, but so far they’ve been so busy they haven’t had time to respond.
And the hours are long, The Makery is open from 9a.m. – 4p.m., with kids staying all day or for half days and some evenings include additional programming. It’s definitely a labor of love for the staff who are all participating in the two-week programming as volunteers. Parents pay a fee when they register their kids, which goes towards paying the two-week lease and purchasing the equipment.
“We’d obviously love to get to the point where we could pay our staff,” say Dec. “But right now we’re all here because we love it and we’re excited about educating people.”
After Sunday the next place you can find The Makery will be at the Third Annual Maker Faire held Sept. 29th – 30th at New York Hall of Science in Queens or at nycmakery.com