When children build for real clients.

A Summer filled with collaboration, creativity, and community.

Each Summer, we host our Summer S.T.E.A.M. maker camps that engage kids in hands-on projects. We explore topics ranging from Design Thinking, to Electronics, to Sustainable Design, and even dabble in Culinary Creations! But this Summer, through some wonderful collaborations, the impact was even greater! We partnered with various instructors, community organizations, and local small businesses to provide real-world challenges that the kids would design and build solutions for. It was uncharted territory for many involved in the projects — but it ended up being an incredibly rewarding experience! This is the story of two incredible projects that put the power of community transformation in the hands of children (of course with the help of a team of committed local makers!)

Urban Hacking Camp 2017

Each Summer, Learn01 and Mano Americas co-host the Wynwood Maker Camp to teach kids about virtual reality, coding, minecraft, electronics, and more. They partner with our makerspace to provide access to the Fabrication Lab to all of their campers so they can learn about both the digital and physical realms of making. We also host our own S.T.E.A.M. camps that focus more on design thinking, digital fabrication, and engineering. But coming together and talking about what the ultimate Maker Camp would look like, we all realized that the goals were well aligned. It should be a real-world project, it should be built in our community, it should be sustainable, and it should incorporate both physical and digital skills. That was the beginning of the collaboration that became The Urban Hacking Camp.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” 
― Margaret Mead

After many planning sessions, together we identified a client (Smartbites), a list of projects with a wide range of learning objectives, and some fundraising goals to give kids from every walk of life a chance to experience this unique learning opportunity. The team at Learn01 was very effective at raising funds, and partnered with another great local organization, Codella, to empower more girls to get involved in this STEAM camp. We planned the camp in a way that gave every child an equal opportunity to spend time at the Learn01 space and Moonlighter Makerspace, learning various basic skills that they would need in order to build their ideas in full scale!

50 kids, 5 teams, 1 goal.

There were 5 project categories that the kids could chose to join: Social Games, Outdoor Furniture, Up-cycled Art, Electronics + Sensors, and Vertical Farming Systems. Though there would be some cross-pollination of the groups, ie. The art group helping the social games team paint and decorate their creations, etc. the groups were tasked to work together in order to design, develop, and build their own visions for improving the Smartbites Community Garden.

1/ Vertical Farming Systems Team:

Julian Morel | Victor Morel | Ethan Sullivan | Lucas Nadeau | Zakarie Amedia | Kai Siqueria | Aleko Katsoufis | Marlon Kantor | Zac Fetaya | Spencer Dalis

Urban Farming is becoming ever more essential to the healthy development of our rapidly growing cities. It is more socially and environmentally responsible to grow produce as close as possible to the population that is consuming it. Since cities don’t have the space for large plots of farmland, vertical farming solutions are tackling this challenge. This group created two different designs. The first is an kit of parts designed and open-sourced for community use by SPACE10, a ‘skunkworks-style’ innovation and design team in Denmark. The Growroom is an 8 foot tall sphere made of plywood that is designed to facilitate the growth of edible plants. When you download the CAD files online, you program it through the CNC milling machine and get a kit of parts that you assemble. It took all hands on deck to build the final installation, but with lots of teamwork, it went up! The other design was a self-standing aquaponics wall that grows crops in upcycled 2-liter soda bottles. Using a small pump to circulate the water, this system is able to maintain itself for longer periods of time.

2/ Outdoor Furniture Team:

Yair Tayas Zamir | Gonzalo Rojas | Roberto Erana | Noah Orlowsky | Diego Marques | Carson Wynn | Shan Lipnick | Mattias Paulo Porras | Mateo Lartigue | Dabran Castillo | Sabrina Noborikawa | Derek Truong | Steven Moradiaga

The outdoor furniture team created unique solutions for SmartBites. Since the space hosts events and serves as outdoor seating for the cafe, adequate tables and chairs are needed to accommodate the visitors. However, instead of just building a regular table, they created a multipurpose design that uses the legs of the table to grow herbs that you can use in your meal! Each leg is made from a hollow PVC tube with holes cut out to grow the plants. A decorative pattern was cut out of the table tops to allow sunlight to filter through and assist in growing the plants. They used an open-source flat pack stool design for seating to accompany the tables. A version 2 was already in the works, adding a filtered opening at the top of each table leg that would allow water to enter and feed the plants. We’re so impressed with the level of creativity and design detail this group came up with!

3/ Social Games Team:

Gustavo Falcon | Nicolas Korff | Ashley Rojas | Kimberly Rodriguez | Daphne Cerratl | Kalyssa Rosado

The outdoor garden at SmartBites is a community space for people to enjoy. The goal for this group was to create objects that would get visitors to interact with each other and their surroundings. The group designed, fabricated, and painted three games using the CNC, Miter Saws, Orbital Sanders, and Water Sealer. First they made a Giant Jenga Game out of 2x4 wood, then they cut out the pieces to build a cornhole bean bag toss game and collaborated with the art team to paint nature-inspired murals on the surfaces. Last, they cut out an open-source kit for Giant Tic-Tac-Toe! They hope this will add an element of spontaneous fun activity for the community space.

4/ Electronics & Sensors Team:

Diego Marques | Kai Siqueria | Ashley Rojas | Kalyssa Rosado | Daphne Cerratl

Technology allows us to monitor our environments so we can better understand how it behaves, what it needs, and how we can help it grow. This team explored using irrigation sensors that track the moisture levels of the soil to inform SmartBites when plants need to be re-watered. Especially in the Summer months, when temperatures are high and water evaporates much quicker than usual, this feature helps prevent dried up crops. This team also explored various solar powered LED lighting systems to be used in different areas in the garden.

5/ Upcycled Art Team:

Emilie Trenhs | Victoria Velazquez | Jordan Bryant | Jennifer Senra | Melissa Solis | Zoe Katsoufis | Dagny Jerles

Waste has become a big problem for our society — and although new measures are being developed to create more circular processes, we are still not innovating fast enough and are continuing to grow our landfills each and every day. Upcycling is a great way to create something new and valuable out of things that would otherwise be discarded. It gives a new life to trash by changing our perspective, viewing what we now consider ‘waste’ instead, as a resource. Using recycled plastics collected from shopping bags, water bottles, and other packaging, as well as scrap pieces of plywood from previous projects made at the fabrication lab, this team created new compositions that transformed these discarded objects into works of art for all to enjoy, beautifying the public space!

“Waste is only waste if we waste it.”
― William Adams

It was an incredibly active 2 weeks — An artful balance between prescribed projects and open design challenges, where theory met practice, and research directly informed process. And all of this was done by kids in middle and elementary school! The learning was in the doing. Rather than reading a textbook, they manipulated materials. They looked things up online when they needed a reference, and put pencil to paper to dream up new ways of solving these real world problems presented to them. It was a transformative experience, both for the kids, and for the staff. As Theodore Roosevelt would say, there is no greater feeling than working hard on work worth doing.

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein

The Mobile Reading Pod

Our Design Thinking camps usually have imaginary characters that we use as clients. This gives kids the experience of designing for someone else’s needs. They practice empathy, they have to research, they have to iterate and test their solutions. But this year, thanks to The New Tropic, the camp had a real client — The Miami Book Fair! Their task was to design a mobile reading solution: An installation that would travel to different neighborhoods, provide a nice place to sit and read, dispense free books, and promote literature. This is no easy task, and it was just the challenge to give to our group of young makers.

As you can imagine, the kids dreamed up all sorts of fantastical technologies, like giant drones that deliver books, autonomous library vehicles, modular book blocks, and more. But the panel of judges at the Miami Book Fair and The New Tropic finally chose the winning project, a mobile reading pod by 9-year old Allen Hasbun, designed to accommodate 5 different ways of sitting and reading, along with a few shelf spaces for the books.

Allen explaining his various prototypes and his design process during his interview with Bruce Pinchbeck Jr. from The New Tropic.

Once selected, Allen spent the next month at Moonlighter refining his design to meet some pretty important functionalities that were missing including keeping rain out of the bookshelves, an area that’s shaded, selecting a material and production method that would produce a rigid and durable finish that can withstand the elements outdoors, etc.

We worked closely with him to implement these changes and build another range of prototypes using TinkerCad, Adobe Illustrator, 3D printing, and laser cutting. Once he found the form that he liked, we proceeded to cut out a full scale cardboard prototype of the different seats to test the human proportions.

Testing human proportions of each of the seating areas with a full scale cardboard prototype.

We were pleasantly surprised to see how engaged and motivated Allen was to take part in the build process. He was active in all the sanding, gluing and clamping. As soon as one of the layers was finished cutting on the CNC, he was ready to pull it off and prepare for the next cut. While we were waiting for glue to dry or a layer to cut, he would use some of the scrap pieces of wood to build toolboxes and other small projects. He was really excited about every step of the process.

The process chosen was a layering system, where each profile is cut out of plywood sheets and stacked on top of each other using dowels for alignment. This allows for a very solid construction that makes complex geometries easy to achieve. In this way, the laser cut prototype informed Allen how his full scale object would be built. Once all of the layers were glued, it was sanded smooth and finished with a marine varnish to protect it from moisture and sun exposure.

The first location for his pop-up reading pod is The Wynwood Yard. It will also travel to the Miami Book Fair in November and we are working with the team to discuss future neighborhood activations to bring free books to different communities. Allen intends to open source his design so that any city can download the CAD files, CNC cut them at a local makerspace, and bring a reading experience to their own town! The biggest take-away is to never underestimate what a 9-year old can achieve. When given the tools, skills, and resources to build, you’ll be surprised what a child is capable of building — and of the impact it can have on your community.

“It always seems impossible until it is done”
― Nelson Mandela

*Special thanks to our wonderful lead camp facilitators, Vicky and Jon. We are very proud of our team of MDCPS Summer interns who learned how to use all the technologies in our space and quickly became team leaders, helping the kids learn and build their ideas. We appreciate the kind help of local community makers, Danny and Mario, for helping with various tasks, applying varnish, moving and installing. A Huge thanks to all of our collaborators this Summer, that came together to make these incredible opportunities happen for our community: Miami Book Fair, The New Tropic, Learn 01, Mano Americas.*