This year's annual ASTC conference was held in beautiful Albuquerque, New Mexico and was co-hosted by Explora, the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Karen, Mike, and I went to represent the Tinkering Studio and participate in several sessions on making and tinkering in museum settings.
Before the conference officially started, we (along with 9 other museums!) hosted a pre-conference workshop called "Make it Work: Tinkering and Design Thinking at Your Museum." We had over 60 participants from museums all over the US and internationally. Participants added their names and institutions to the map. We had to make last minute additions for Europe and Asia extending from the board.
The day was full of hands-on activities, informative presentations, and thought-provoking conversations as people from nascent, growing, and established maker spaces connected over discussing the joys and challenges of maintaining a tinkering space in a museum. One of the highlights of the day was a huge round robin where the session leaders all shared an activity loosely themed around Artbots, followed by small group conversations reflecting on the activities themselves, what qualities made them tinkerable, and sharing thoughts on in what ways session partcipants' different institutions may or may not be ready to host spaces like these.
Monika from the Lawerence Hall of Science in Berkeley shared their recent discovery of adding a Makey Makey to a scribbling machine to make a musical artbot.
On Monday we split up to simultaneously host three sessions at once. Karen participated in a session entitled "Is There Science in a Maker Event?" It was a lively conversation that debated ideas such as process versus content and the merits of the maker "movement". One of the biggest takeaways was the sheer excitement in the room; making and tinkering are becoming more common in museums and it was heartening to see the ways in which people are thinking deeply around issues of what it takes to make a space like this truly work and thrive.
Meanwhile, I hosted a table at the annual "Indie Style" session, where participants get to try out many high-impact, low-cost STEAM experiences all in one room. We shared our version of paper circuits that we've been experimenting with in the Tinkering Studio.
Lastly, Mike participated in the first official meeting of our new Making and Tinkering Spaces in Museums Community of Practice (CoP). From the site description: "Our CoP seeks to develop a wider community of people interested in all aspects of creating and running Making and Tinkering spaces within a museum. We’re offering a chance to connect with others experienced in this area, as well as those just beginning, in order to learn from each other and broaden the conversation. Our conversations will range from the philosophical ideals to the practical realities, and be geared towards supporting each member and the work they do at their individual institution."
ASTC members can login here to join this CoP. Since its founding just two weeks ago we already have 39 members, and several discussions, blogs, and resources posted! This will also be the hub for hosting online hangouts where museums all over the world can join in on conversations relating to supporting making and tinkering spaces.
This year's conference was another wonderful opportunity to reconnect with colleagues, meet new folks, learn about innovative work being done all over the world, and continue to spark our curiosity about what else we can try here in the Tinkering Studio.