Growing Up Making – Stephanie Chang

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 Stephanie Chang, Director of Programs at Maker Ed. Share your own #GrowingUpMaking story with us online via Twitter.

MacGyver in Disguise

By Stephanie Chang

When I was a gangly middle and high-schooler, I spent a lot of weekends with my mom working on houses.

My dad’s an engineer, though not really mechanically handy unless you count his success at pulling weeds. My mom wasn’t trained as an engineer, but she’s a spunky, petite, gray-haired Asian MacGyver in disguise, and we sweated through southern summer days fixing things. They owned a duplex in a tough neighborhood, and as such, they were landlords, plumbers, and handymen in their spare time. I remember wondering, once upon a time, during an 11th visit to Home Depot, why we didn’t just find a qualified contractor, but my family epitomized the ideals of DIY and scrappiness and so Home Depot it was.

While I could’ve been familiarizing myself with the aisles of Claire’s in the mall or bouncing/falling to pop tunes at the local rollerskating rink, instead I often found myself face-to-face with a porcelain throne, figuring out how to retile bathroom floors, learning to patch drywall, or stretching carpet.

Glorious? Not really. Incredible experience for my life 20 years later? Absolutely. It was, in some senses, my maker-in-residence training and since then, I’ve never looked at ceilings, windows, walls, and dwellings in the same way.

In high school, I also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity on weekends. While this may sound honorable, I was drawn to volunteering for both good reasons and teenager-type ones: hanging out with friends was as enticing as genuinely dedicating hours to create a residence for someone who needed a home. As a result, I learned how to hammer better. I learned how to space, stagger, and install vinyl siding, and to shingle roofs.

I’d like to think that those experiences influenced my perspectives. I can break down big-picture endeavors into small, bite-size chunks. I think about the order of operations a lot — whether I’m designing an educational program or staining a patio. I wish my high school physics class had been a Habitat for Humanity experience in real life. And nowadays, I’m a sucker for DIY projects. Those strange but incredibly fortunate out-of-school-time experiences staring at a toilet bowl made me realize the utility of my hands. We should all be so lucky to have opportunities to learn in that way, and those memories spur my work at Maker Ed through and through.







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