By David Markham
After seeing initial use during some of JCPRD’s 2023 summer youth camps, a new Makerspace at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center is now taking registrations for a slate of fall and winter classes for youth and adults.
“Our makerspace has already been full of creativity and fun this summer, hosting eight full weeks of summer camps,” said Fine Arts Coordinator Ryan Bell. “The campers have done everything from making their own mechanical contractions to sewing custom tote bags to designing and 3D printing characters. Everyone at the JCAHC has loved seeing the space so full of energy and kids have had a blast being artistic and learning new skills.”
Addressing basics first, just what is a makerspace?
“A makerspace is a space filled with tools and equipment where people can gather to work on projects while sharing knowledge, learning new skills, collaborating, and having fun,” Bell explained. “The specific tools and equipment can vary from space to space but the communal energy and drive to learn through making is shared by all makerspaces.”
The Makerspace at JCAHC is equipped with 3D printers, a laser cutter, basic electronics equipment, and hand tools. Patrons ages 8 and up can register for programs designed to teach them how to use these machines and tools.
“Our makerspace is intended to be a learning hub, driven by programming that is developed and taught by our maker educators, so it will be open only for registered or drop-in programming,” Bell said.
September through December maker offerings for youth include:
September through December maker offerings for adults include:
Of these offerings, Bell noted two she is especially excited about.
“With the sewn circuits offerings, you are creating an electrical circuit, but instead of soldering wire and using a circuit board, you’re sewing conductive thread and purpose-made lights into fabric,” she said. “It’s a great way to combine high-tech and low-tech skills to make art. We’re really excited about this series as it’s something unique that many people don’t know about. We’ve already also had a lot of anticipation around the Laser Cut Lamp program! Participants will learn about the design and making process as they create, laser cut, and assemble their own lamp. It’s a great opportunity to learn about laser cutting while creating a unique, functional, and artistic item.”
Based on reactions from participants in JCPRD summer camps who used the makerspace, the new facility is already a hit. Here’s what some of the summer campers had to say:
- “My favorite thing about Maker Camp is that there’s no wrong way to do it [the projects], when it doesn’t turn out the way you expected it’s still cool.”
- “This camp gave us the freedom to make what we wanted, if you want to try something out just ask if you can go for it!”
- “I love that we get to build new things and there are so many awesome mediums to use like making a plushie that lights up or 3D printing.”
- “This is the best experience you will have in art in your entire life!”
Bell anticipates more makerspace offerings in 2024, including preschool and daytime adult and 50 Plus classes, and added she is working on plans for other events with local partners, makerspaces, and STEM organizations.
“We are collaborating with the Black and Veatch Makerspace at Johnson County Library’s Central Resource Library (jocolibrary.org/makerspace) to offer complimentary programming so our class participants can take the skills they’ve learned with us to the library makerspace and start making,” she said. “We also plan to offer more collaborative programming with the makerspace at the JCL like the free Learn to Solder workshops that took place at both the Central Resource Library and JCAHC this May.”
The room which now houses Makerspace at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center was previously occupied by the Overland Park Historical Society, but that group earlier this year took advantage of an opportunity to have its own standalone space outside of JCAHC. This created a space for JCPRD to add additional programming space and it was decided a makerspace would allow for new programming that fits within the Fine and Performing Arts Department.
“This space lets us add onto our Fine Arts programming in several ways,” Bell explained. “We are expanding our STEAM program offerings for youth ages 8 and up like our Homeschool Making & Engineering class, which has already focused on mechanics, electronics, engineering, and design thinking but will now include digital fabrication with our 3D printing and laser cutting capabilities. We are also able to grow other programs to offer them more often and to new age groups like our Machine Sewing classes, which were previously only a summer camp option but will now be available throughout the year for youth and adults. And, of course we are now able to offer maker specific programming related to 3D printing, laser cutting, electronics, and more.”
The Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center is located at 8788 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park. For the latest information about JCPRD makerspace activities, visit JCPRD.com/1929/Events.