Welcome to Maker Ed’s “Growing up Making” community blog series that highlights how maker educators have been influenced by family and their community. By sharing stories of what inspires maker educators, we’re excited to showcase the impactful and multigenerational human history of making.
This post was written by Prinda Wanakule, Director of Experience Design and Development at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, CA. Share your own #GrowingUpMaking story with us online via Twitter.
Many Ways of Making
By Prinda Wanakule
I’m an engineer, experience designer, and maker educator and in my free time, I like to make. I make: food (growing, baking, and cooking), stickers on the vinyl cutter, wood furniture, laser cut wedding invitations, 3D printed objects that solve problems, and excuses to collect and analyze data.
My making interests are pretty varied. As a child, I was very fortunate to have parents with strong skill sets in very different areas, which has inspired me to learn and work on a variety of projects. My father is a water resources engineer, and his favorite pastimes are: writing code to analyze data and control systems, beating all of our Nintendo games, and DIY projects around the house. On the other hand, my mother’s making skills were centered around food and art, including Thai-style fruit carving, gardening, cooking, and sewing.
Although my parents both worked long hours, they found time to be supportive and share their crafts with me. I remember being mesmerized watching my mom carve a watermelon into a beautiful piece of edible art, or watching my dad build our backyard patio. I didn’t necessarily always jump in; there were very few times when my observation translated to hands-on participation. But I do recognize a few important things about these experiences:
- Seeing my parents working on those projects was inspiring, and made me feel like I could do them too.
- When I was inspired to jump in, my parents provided me with starter projects that enabled me to succeed quickly. In the case of learning to build websites, my dad helped me build a Geocities webpage full of Hello Kitty gifs, pushed me on to learn html, and supported me through my phase of sites with too much Flash animation (this was the late 90s). When I wanted to learn to cook, my mom started me on the perfect batch of rice, on to simple stir fry, and then to the most delicious bowl of Northern style curry noodle soup (I’m still trying to perfect that one).
These experiences have also had a profound effect on the work that I do with The Tech, having shaped some principles for our design challenge and making experiences at The Tech. The first principle is that inspiration and innovation can start from anywhere. Makerspaces can be filled with with things you can find around your house, and those things can be used, for example, to engineer a device that solves a problem. The second principle is that our makers will have different levels of interest and engagement for different activities, and that’s ok. It’s our job to help expose makers to different things to help spark a passion. It’s important to change up the activities often, and to not be afraid to explore things that you don’t know much about. The last principle is that it’s important to be ready to support makers in scaling up their skills. For example, we might start with a baseline prompt or challenge, and then add different rules or restrictions. Or we might change the materials to create opportunity for extra ingenuity, or encourage working together to find a way to solve the challenge in a completely different way.
As the National Week of Making wraps up, I hope that these insights help to inspire everyone to make and to celebrate making.
Like Prinda, we here at Maker Ed believe strongly that making comes in many forms, and that inspiration can come from anywhere or anyone. As we describe in our Youth Makerspace Playbook, “makerspaces can provide opportunities for many forms of making and expression to come together, illuminating the youth’s contributions to each other and to their communities. Their voices, their gifts—in the myriad of languages in which they’re expressed—matter.“
Who are the people in your own life who have inspired you and encouraged you to make? Share your story and photos on social media using #growingupmaking. Don’t forget to tag @MakerEdOrg!