The MakerBus – Adventures on the road…

Imagine that you’re broken down on the side of the road. You need gas, but as hard as you try, the spout of your jerry can won’t reach into your gas tank. Now imagine that to solve this problem you have a length of tubing, three people, and a funnel.

This isn’t a personality test or a creative thinking challenge – this is life on the road with the MakerBus, Canada’s first mobile makerspace and technology education classroom.

Life with the MakerBus is never what you expect it to be. From learning to drive a school bus in a university parking lot, to purchasing industrial grade veterinary lubricant, to attempting to make homemade liquid nitrogen, the MakerBus keeps us on our toes.

The first question we’re asked when telling people about our project is, “Do you actually have a bus?” Yes. The MakerBus is a 1989 International school bus purchased from a scrap yard.

Before being transformed into the MakerBus, our school bus had two roles at the junk yard – serving the junk yard’s staff as a tailgating/party bus and serving as a toilet for the junk yard’s population of racoons. Between empty beer cans and racoon feces, our school bus was in desperate need of  a little TLC when it first came into our lives.

The second question we’re asked when telling people about the MakerBus is, “How do you make money?” To answer this question we often joke that the MakerBus doesn’t run on gas, it runs on community support. We started the MakerBus with a crowd-funding campaign that gave us enough money to purchase the bus and to this day, our community has consistently amazed us with their generous support for this idea.

And this support goes far beyond money. We have had community members volunteer their time to sand crosses off the front of our bus (it belonged to a church before it was sent to the junk yard). We have had people volunteer their business space for us to hold after school classes. And we have had organizations lend us their time and mentorship to allow our team to develop our shared dream of affordable, accessible, and fun education into the reality of our big blue bus.

Now that you’ve had some time to think of how you’d solve the problem of the stalled bus and the short jerry can, we’ll share how we solved that challenge. It may sound corny, but our solution was teamwork. The MakerBus was founded by three people – Kim, Beth, and Ryan. It took each of us working together to breath life back into our bus. Beth held the funnel and connected it to the tubing. Ryan stood inside the bus and poured the gas into the funnel. And Kim guided the tube into the hole.

With all we’ve been through in the past three years, no single moment better encapsulated our experience with the MakerBus – it showed that teamwork (and a little creativity) can #MAKE anything happen.

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