We talk with a lot of parents in our community who want their children to engage with the maker movement, but can’t afford expensive classes and equipment. Learning like a maker doesn’t have to be expensive, in fact, many makers pride themselves on self-learning and building things as cheaply as possible. In this post we’re going to explore five affordable and accessible maker learning resources you can use at home (if you want to read Part 1 of our maker learning resource round-up, click here).
1. Libraries are becoming makerspaces – In communities across North America, libraries are embracing the maker movement. Libraries are community learning spaces and are a great way to gain free access to ideas, tools, and instruction. The Edmonton Library has the largest library makerspace in Canada, providing patrons with access to 3D printers, green screens, and even a machine that will print and bind their favourite ebook. Here in Ontario there are library makerspaces in communities like Innisfil, Sudbury, and St. Thomas – just to name a few.
Here in London, the London Public Library offers free workshops exploring things like circuitry, interactive digital music, and all manner of STEM subjects. So if you’re a parent who is interested in exploring the maker movement with your family, definitely keep an eye on your local library’s event calendar.
2. Instructable – Instructables is hands-down one of the most comprehensive resources for maker tutorials, projects, and resources on the internet. Their large community posts new projects and tutorials everyday on pretty much every subject imaginable. Want to learn how to turn unwanted scraps into Valentine’s Day gifts? There’s a tutorial for it. Want to make glazed apple cranberry tea biscuits? There’s a tutorial for that. Want to hack your Microsoft Kinect into a 3D scanner? You guessed it, there’s a tutorial for that.
A word of caution though, because the tutorials on Instructables are written by community members, not all tutorials are as easy or as cheap as they may seem online. More than once, I’ve had to abandon a project because a part that was easy for the tutorial’s author to source is nearly impossible to source where I live (I’m looking at you $1 Conductive Paint tutorial).
3. Hackaday.io – If you’re looking for a maker resource on the more technical side, Hackaday.io is a fantastic resource. Focusing largely on open-source software and hardware, Hackaday is a great place to look for Raspberry Pi and Arduino tutorials. This might not be the best resource for someone who is just getting started with making, but if you’re feeling comfortable with new hardware and software, this is a great jumping off point.
4. Look to thrift stores for tinkering projects – It’s amazing what you can find inside of unwanted technology. By taking apart a $5 thrift store DVD player, you can find a wealth of lenses, gears, and circuit boards that can be used in other projects. Even if you don’t end up using any of the parts, children learn a lot from taking apart unwanted technology. Did you know if you take apart an unwanted DVD player you can find lenses inside that can turn your smartphone or tablet into a magnifier? If you have a piece of technology that’s destined for the recycler, run an internet search and see what can safely be removed from it – you never know what you might find.
5. Youtube is an amazing educational resource – Everyday tens of thousands of tutorials and how-to guides are posted to Youtube. You can learn how to cut your own hair, learn how to make an origami Yoda, or learn how to play the piano. There’s so much information on Youtube, it’s hard to know where to look. One of our favourite Youtube maker channels is Grant Thompson’s “King of Random” channel. While many of his tutorials definitely need adult supervision, this channel is a great starting point for exploring the maker movement on Youtube.
Once you start looking, you’ll be amazed by how many affordable and accessible maker learning resources you can find. But our most important piece of advice is, ask for advice. Whether it’s asking your local librarian where to find resources, talking to a techy friend, or sending us an email (email@example.com), the best way to find affordable and accessible maker resources is to talk to people in your community. Once you begin to become part of a maker community, you’ll gain access to an amazing wealth of information and experience.
If you liked this article, why not follow the MakerBus on twitter (@DHMakerBus) or like us on Facebook (/dhmakerbus)? We post some of the most creative maker projects found on the web every day. If you #getonthebus, we promise a fun ride!
-The MakerBus team