Global Chapter Case Study: CREATE @ Arizona Science Center

Look inside the Phoenix, AZ littleBits Chapter

February 16, 2016

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As the littleBits Global Chapters program grows and our School Chapters program launches, it’s important to highlight the unique spaces hosting events around the world. For this series, we’ve interview four Chapter leaders (from different types of spaces) and encouraged them to share their experience with us.

Welcome to CREATE @ Arizona Science Center.

Please describe your space and what you do in there.

CREATE at Arizona Science Center is a unique hybrid facility that combines elements from makerspaces, learning labs, community centers, and science museums. It is a place that focuses on introducing people to the worlds of making, tinkering, and designing by providing access to both high-tech and traditional tools, and hosting a variety of activities and programs focused on middle school/high school/adult ages groups. While we have some significant pieces of equipment, like two 60 W laser cutters, over a dozen FDM 3D printers, a large CNC router, and many other traditional workshop tools, our focus is primarily on building a community of people who are inspired and empowered to create a difference in their world.

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How many kids do you host in your space at a time.
I would first note that our space is not just for kids! While we have only been open to the public since the end of last September, we have already hosted professional development workshops for teachers, team-building activities for corporate partners, and equipment training classes for people ranging in age from 13 to 68. That being said, we do see a lot of kids with families and with school groups–in general, CREATE’s main area can comfortably host 100 participants doing activities simultaneously.

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How do you use littleBits in your space? Which set do you have?
We have the littleBits Pro Library and we use it to introduce the concepts of design thinking and open-ended tinkering. (Please see the next question for more details.)

What kind of workshops do you run?
So far, we have determined two “modes” of using littleBits with the public to be the most successful. Both are with pre-booked groups, which is to say we have not yet determined a good way of using them for open-door, “drop-in” activities.

The first structure we have used is the “design challenge-type” events. These have been both with adults (team-building activities) and kids (field trips, camp groups, homeschool groups). These are roughly 60 min. long events, where we allow the participants to explore & play with some littleBits and then present a design challenge (i.e. using the littleBits that your team has been provided, and some basic construction materials, make a device that moves a ping pong ball move across the table. For an extra challenge: Control it without any physical contact!) The cost here is dependent on the group, but ranges from $4-$10/person.

The second structure has been our “Hack Nights”, which are two-hour long evening events that are open to all ages 8+. The events are themed, usually based on the littleBits Global Chapter theme, and are intentionally open-ended (e.g. Make a Star Wars related device, character, vehicle, etc. with littleBits and basic craft materials).  We have only run two of these, but they both sold out within a few days of their online posting. We are scheduling them now on a monthly basis.  The cost is $5/person and it is capped at 30 people. These have also been mostly attended by kids/parents but also some young adults as well.

What pricing structure do you use for your workshops?
Please see above.

What has your return on investment been?
While we may not have fully recouped the cost of the Pro Library (yet!), virtually all of the participants in our littleBits-based programs have walked away having learned something, either about design thinking, basic circuit function, or simply about their own ability to make something that works. littleBits have been invaluable in quickly and safely introducing people to the maker mindset and giving them a whole set of tools to explore and play with.

Additionally, we have just started experimenting with the retail potential for our space. We’re happy to say that, during our last Hack Night, we sold several kits and plan to make more available to the public in the coming months.

What’s been the most exciting part about running a Global Chapter in your space?
Seeing this types of moments:

Starting to see a community form around invention, creativity, and making has been absolutely fantastic. Given that we were juggling so many different priorities and goals while trying to open CREATE, it was great to have the Global Chapters program to push us (politely!) to having our Hack Night events, which– in the end–, are exactly what CREATE was made for. We truly appreciate how much littleBits has supported us.