One of the many advantages of having a dedicated space on the museum floor is that it allows for quick and relatively easy experimenting with ideas for activities that do not need to be fully worked out yet. We tried out something last week that came about a little serendipitously.
A while ago, while visiting Leah Buechley's lab at MIT, we saw a great little vinyl cutting machine, called the Craft ROBO. They were using it to design circuit and cut them out of copper foil, so that they would be easy to sew onto fabric.
Since it was relatively cheap, we decided to get one and play around with it. As mentioned before, one of the earliest application that excited me was cutting vinyl decals to decorate my laptop.
Last week, the Exploratorium hosted a three-day event called Rods and Mods, which invited computer hackers and modders to showcase their creations on the museum floor.
We thought it would be fun to set up a little station inviting visitors to design, print out, and apply their own mods for laptops, cellphones, wallets, water bottles, etc. Pretty much anything that would take a vinyl sticker was fair game.
Kids got to design their own creations, using the exceedingly intuitive software LiveBrush. and then go through the steps of choosing the type of vinyl that they wanted, sending the file to the vinyl cutter (often watching captivated as the machine did its thing), carefully peel away the background, burnish the design onto transfer tape, and finally transferring it to their object of choice.
The photos we took show the unmistakable pride that each visitor took in their creations, and the sense of ownership of the experience that results from that.
You can see more photos from the event by clicking the banner below: