Department of Making + Doing

University City Science Center

Funding Received: 2013
Philadelphia, PA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
January 3, 2014

Photo by  Mike Darfler

The end of 2013 has coincided with starting to get our programming and promotional machine running, with higher volume and more diverse programming at the Department of Making + Doing. An obvious choice around the holidays was to offer several gift-making workshops. At our pre-Thanksgiving event where participants could make lasercut and woodblock prints, a pop-up book, and use the vinyl cutter to make custom tshirt designs, there were very few people pre-registered, but there ended up being a decent turnout. The post-Thanksgiving event had the space packed with adults and kids, many of whom had never been to our space before.

The next day we hosted the local author Jason Fagone, talking about his recently released book “Ingenious” about American invention as exemplified in the teams competing to build a 200-mpg car and win the HybridX prize. One of the engineers from a midwest team, Kevin Smith, made the trip to speak as well, and brought the car he and his team made by hand in their barn. That day also saw the most snowfall in Philly in about 2 years. Though we knew the weather would deter quite a few people, our guest speakers kept in frequent phone contact, and when the program coordinator showed up to open up the doors, there were several eager participants waiting in the lobby. As we got updates from the road from Jason and Kevin, our participants helped shovel the loading area outside our front door, since the plows hadn’t been by yet. Over 90 minutes from the original start time, Jason and Kevin arrived, delivered their presentation, and then had a great group discussion. Several of the participants were from the first HybridX team fielded by West Philly High School, who have since gone on to pursue mechanical engineering at a local university, or become apprentice engineers for Philly’s transit authority. Overall it was inspiring to see the die-hard fans wait patiently to have a chance to inspect the hand-made car, in the snow, and invite those driving by to join the event.


Photo by Georgia Guthrie

In addition to these encouraging signs of attendance at our first few events, the spirits of our partners have been bolstered by a recent successful completion of a Kickstarter for one partner organizations, The Hacktory. The campaign raised more than $12,000 from over 260 backers to fund a residency for artists to learn to incorporate technology into their work, and garnered an article on NBC10. The Hacktory aims to implement the program in spring 2014.

All combined, these happenings have indicated a growing awareness of Dept. of Making + Doing where fun and interesting things are happening. As we continue to get regulars at our weekly “Drop In + Do” night and our workshops, we are starting to focus on how to have an effective on-going dialogue to build a relationship with those participants. Social media seems like the most likely avenue for that dialogue but to get to know the segments of our diverse audience better, we will be hosting several focus groups with them in early 2014, the results of which we will be very happy to share here.