Tinkering Studio’s founder, Mike Petrich graciously gave the BrightLab design team a tour of their workspace.
The Tinkering Studio is a public space at the Exploratorium to explore science, art, and design in meaningful ways. The Studio provides a hands-on experience to a cross section of the population who may not have the opportunity for such rich design exploration.
We spent a long time with Mike discussing what makes the Tinkering Studio so successful, and how we can translate what they’ve learned to our project. One of the things we talked about was using materials that were familiar and readily available to kids, like toilet paper tubes, paper clips, and paper. Fancy, expensive materials aren’t necessary, and in fact using a few simple, versatile materials enhances creative thinking more than a huge array of complex materials.
We also discussed how the layout of our space will impact its success with the students. For instance, the Tinkering Studio has a loosely partitioned work area, and Mike noted that just those simple cardboard barriers provide a feeling of security that enables tinkerers to take risks. Mike also noted that this enclosing of space, and the ability to interact with others inside of it, was particularly important to getting women and girls to buy in. This brought up interesting questions of how to design our space so that it appeals to all genders, and encourages a feeling a safety and comfort.
Lastly, Mike underlined the importance of having the activities be voluntary, because when each individual is in charge of when, if, and how long they participate, it results in a greater degree of openness to the task at hand. We are thinking about how we might implement this factor of choice in our design, perhaps by incorporating a few different activities for the students to choose from.
Our entire team was extremely inspired by the work that the Tinkering Studio is doing, and we intend to continue to seek their feedback as we progress in our project!