Young Makers may start developing their projects in a variety of ways. Some already have a clear idea of what they want to make; others will spend months trying out one idea before tossing it and trying another. Both are okay!
To get started, consider some of the options below.
Brainstorm. Dr. Linus Pauling famously said that the best way to have good ideas is to have LOTS of ideas. That is, brainstorm often and go crazy with wild ideas.
- Create a list of as many ideas as you can.
- Create an ongoing “bug list”, a list of things that “bug” or bother you. These can be big, complex problems or simple, petty ones.
- Ask friends for their bugs, their ideas, and their half-baked projects.
- Try out some brainstorming activities.
- Start focusing on the ideas that appear promising. Eventually you’ll winnow the list down to the good ones. Don’t be surprised if only a fraction of your initial ideas turn out to be good. That’s normal.
See what’s out there. To get your idea generator going, it helps to look at as many examples as possible of what other people have done. You can replicate the project exactly or add your own twist along the way. Here are a few places to look:
- Maker Ed’s online Resource Library: The Resource Library includes more than a hundred resources and ideas. Head over to the Projects and Learning Approaches category for inspiration.
- Past Young Makers projects: Check out the 2013, 2014, and 2015 galleries of Young Makers projects presented at Maker Faire Bay Area.
- Instructables: Contains an exhaustive set of step-by-step instructions for a million different projects of all difficulty levels. You could spend half a lifetime browsing this site. You can also contribute your project to the site to help others.
- makezine.com: The Makezine blog has a number of posts each day describing thought-provoking projects.
- Howtoons: A wonderful collection of highly visual materials. Particularly helpful is the Guide to Visual Communication.
Figure out what you want to learn. Another strategy is to pick a set of skills that you’d like to acquire (such as knitting, soldering, or welding), or a material or medium that you’d like to experiment with (such as wood, metal, or ceramics). You can then search for projects related to these skills and materials. You may also know people who have the knowledge you’re after — don’t hesitate to ask. People are generally very happy to share what they know and are happy to help. If you find a maker who has skills related to your project, they may be available to advise you – sometimes they include their contact information on their project page.
Play with something new. Another great way to stimulate ideas is to play with a new material, toy, kit, device, anything!. Materials of any kind can jolt your imagination. Experiment with things you’ve never tried: mylar, electro-luminescent wire, clay, yarn, wire, etc. Spend a long time with the material, exploring it in as many different ways with it as you can imagine, or look around to see what others have done with this material.
Play with something old. Repurpose something old! Taking things apart, hacking them to look and function differently, and working with recycled materials is a great way to rethink something that might seem so common. You can find objects around your house, at local thrift shops or junk stores, at garage sales, and from neighbors and friends.
Do what you love. You can also focus on things you like, such as music, video games, or holidays. Halloween and Christmas provide great opportunities for makers. For Halloween, you can make yard props or interesting costumes. For any holiday, you can make wonderful decorations for your home.