For a particular kind of creative person (specifically, the kind not afraid of soldering guns) modern DIY subculture is a wonderland for all ages. Central to that subculture is Make Magazine and Maker Faire, a publication and annual event (respectively) devoted to celebrating people experimenting with art and technology — and this summer, the Make team applied that same spirit of experimentation to a digital camp for kids: interactive, online, totally free, and powered by Google+ hangouts.
According to Maker-in-Chief Sherry Huss via phone, Google approached Make last May with the idea of setting up a day camp for those interested in Make’s unique approach to do-it-yourself. “Google was looking at growing their Google+ audience,” she said, adding that once they agreed to the project, people from Google came to the Make offices to help plan 30 days of content, featuring 30 unique makers.
Each day of the week was based on a theme:
- Maker Monday
- Tinkering Tuesday
- Weird Science Wednesday
- Theoretical Thursday
- Field Trip Friday
And projects ranged from building a potato cannon to creating animated GIFs to book-binding. Field Trip Fridays included video trips to CERN, NASA and Disney’s Imagineering headquarters.
The structure of each day devoted mornings to individual work on various projects, followed by a Google+ hangout at noon (also live-streamed on YouTube) for the day’s “guest counselor” to discuss the project and answer any questions.
Maker Camp was officially targeted at those over the age of 13 due to Google+ age restrictions, though younger kids were allowed to participate via their parents’ accounts. According to Make senior director of marketing Vickie Welch, feedback received from library programs indicates that the Maker Camp audience leaned towards the 18-year-old age bracket, with adults also enjoying the content.
This week, Make announced via email that Maker Camp will return in the summer of 2013, and looking forward, Huss said that they look to experiment with integrating more with schools and libraries to build audience, as well as continue the Field Trip Fridays hangouts on perhaps a biweekly basis through the school year.
In addition, the possibility of monetizing the program with sponsorship is an option, as Huss cited the Field Trip Friday at Ford Motors as a particularly good example of brand outreach. “Kids were saying, I had no idea Ford was green. I want my first car to be a Ford,” she said.
In the meantime, all of the Maker Camp content remains archived on YouTube and makezine.com. Because learning to make something is always evergreen.