"What does it take for a whole lot of brilliant children to excel?" #76


The seeds for the Ambaixadors/es Makers (“Maker Ambassadors”) project, #AmbMakers for short (which incidentally means “With Makers” in Catalan), were planted in a chance encounter when a member of the Fab Lab Barcelona met with a member of the Pere Tarrés Foundation. They quickly laid out a plan for a new collaboration, and the Barcelona City Council was happy to give their support.

The focus of the project was to provide resources to children in maybe less than ideal situations. The Pere Tarrés already does amazing social work with children and families in general, and Fab Lab Barcelona is a buzzing hub for innovation and research on digital technologies for fabrication. For the scope of this project, the two leading institutions decided to work in three social centers in different neighborhoods of Barcelona: Poblenou, Poble-sec and Ciutat Vella. The social centers were already working with children under state protection, children from disadvantaged families, children with social issues and children from immigrant families who all sometimes need a little boost to fully become the best version of themselves, like all of us do at times.

The Maker Ambassadors involved in the project were very young, from 10 to 14, and for most of them it was the first introduction to maker technology. For this reason, several workshops were organized in all three centers to teach the children the basics of what resources there were at their disposal, which machines could do what, and the general scope of what could be done. One great point paid special attention to was that the Pere Tarrés’ own facilitators also received training by the Fab Lab Barcelona team to better grasp the wide array of possibility they could guide their participants in, both in the scope of this project and in the future.

All Maker Ambassadors learned to work on laser cutters, vinyl cutters, screen printing, 3D printing and electronics/robotics. They settled in groups according to what they wanted to pursue further, where one group chose to build their own 3D printer from a kit, which goes beyond mere assembly and requires an understanding of how machines work in general and how 3D printers work in particular, another decided to focus on electronics, and started to work with the Crocopoi, a platform developed in Fab Lab Barcelona. They later built robo-pets using the BBC’s Micro:bit, and continued with various projects.

During the training phase they did guided projects, but the good part was what came after: Facilitators and participants held a brainstorming session, called a “dynamic”, and several socially-minded projects came about. One group decided to create “chemo-boxes”, 3D printed coverings for the chemotherapy equipment used for children. They helped in creating a story with the children receiving the treatment to imagine being given superpowers and become heroes. Another group designed toys for sick children that would accompany them in the hospital. For these projects they worked with Sant Pau Children’s Hospital.

Now the project is officially concluded, but the children have been provided with the information and the social centers with equipment they can use, so the Maker Ambassadors can use their knowledge to teach new children, and they can all use the mini-lab they have to further implement projects for change.

In the course of ten months, the participants learned a lot about more options for their future, but one of the most important aspects was that they learned to cooperate and think of others. We see great social change coming from the grassroots, with more and more Maker Ambassadors willing to share knowledge and act together every day.