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College Students Spark Creativity in Kids

  • June Soh

Children in a Washington neighborhood are excited about building things they designed.

They are participating in a hands-on learning workshop offered by SparkTruck, created by students from Stanford University. Last year, they launched what they call an educational build-mobile and took it on a two-month trip across the country, offering workshops to nearly 3,000 children along the way.

Now, in their second year, they were joined by students from three other California colleges.

“We are trying to bring creativity and design workshops to kids all over, and bring them prototype tools and materials," said Bengi Kuroda from the Art Center College of Design, "and show them that all these things are accessible to them even if they don’t have them at school.”

The children start by brainstorming ideas. Then they build a prototype of whatever they've dreamed up.

“I made a flying cyclops, just one eye," said Owen Whitman, a workshop participant. "I had a lot of fun making new stuff and learning...how electricity works.”

“We are not perfect as we are not all designers. We are not all engineers," Kuroda said. "But we try to bring in what we feel is important as part of a curriculum, which is thinking creatively and not being afraid of making mistakes.”

Children get to control LEGO robots. They can also try out high-tech tools including a laser cutter and a 3D printer, as well as traditional shop tools.

“It is very nice, and I never even knew about like how the things vibrate," said Fadilat Adefola Raji, who participated in the workshop. "And it was very cool being in here, and this is also a cool machine.”

Post-it notes cover the entire ceiling of the truck, documenting every design made by workshop participants.

Phyllis Klein, owner of Fab Lab DC, hosted the Washington workshop.

“I think what it does is sparks their imagination," Klein said. "It gives them a window into things they can do. It shows them what is possible."

While the SparkTruck team shares their passion for hands-on learning, they are also benefitting.

“I have learned about how to work with children," said Brittany Hallawell of Stanford University. "I have seen a lot of kids that were about to give up and ended up making something, which is just truly inspiring for me.”

SparkTruck has been partly funded by Kickstarter, a website that raises money for creative projects, and corporate donations. Although being on the road for two months can be challenging, the volunteers hope to share the road with additional SparkTrucks in the future.
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