By Shruti Varadharajan
Maker Challenge Coordinator, Children's Museum of Houston
I carefully followed Leah, a Maker Corps Member, as she opened the door to the Chevron Maker Annex in The Children’s Museum of Houston, and the room immediately resembled a high-tech workshop. However, the smell did not resemble my experience of a workshop at all. No, it smelled like s’mores around the campfire. “Yeah, the laser cutter vaporizes the material it cuts and creates a delicious smell,” Leah explained, as if she knew what I was thinking.
I heard the whirring and whooshing of the various machines along the walls of the Annex. I scanned the room for the laser cutter, as that was the reason I was in the Annex. As Leah showed me the correct method to set the laser cutter to do the task, I couldn’t help but think how involved the whole process seemed. It took me several independent attempts and one success to truly understand how rewarding working with such unique technology really is. As I found out, perseverance is essential and trial-and-error is encouraged.
Under supervision, children can visit the Annex and make. The Annex caters to the innovator child who can imagine and create beyond what is provided to them and what is available. Many a times, I see children walk into the Annex feeling excited, yet intimidated by the intense machinery present. Or maybe, the endless possibilities overwhelm them, as it did for me. Very quickly, they realize that the Maker Annex is a safe place where the “mind can come out to play.” In fact the Maker Annex encourages creative outside the box thought. In the Annex, every child will be thoroughly challenged to think in ways they usually don’t.
The children and adults who have the opportunity to participate in a workshop at the Chevron Maker Annex will not only produce a cool creation to take home and gain experience working with high-tech tools. Their experience typically leads to something even bigger, life lessons. The highly-skilled and encouraging Maker Annex staff help the junior makers understand it is good practice to ask for help when needed, which also instills cooperation and team work in the child.
I, too, became less afraid to ask questions. As I have seen, children will learn that it is great to think outside the box, and will leave the Annex feeling confident in their own abilities. Who knows? These brilliant kids could be the future inventors of something great. All it takes is that little spark, and that spark can be initiated in the Maker Annex.
It is a joy for Chevron and The Children’s Museum of Houston to inspire children to become innovators and lifelong learners through interactive workshops. I am proud to witness union of these organizations in the Chevron Maker Annex, as they exemplify the value of creativity and education inside and outside the classroom.