Family Makers

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To enable makers and their families and friends to come together, make things and have fun.


In order to progress and get the club set up quickly and reduce the required legal work this will be for existing members, their families and their guests. The classroom will be the main location used, possibly making use of the kitchen and maybe demonstrating some of the equipment in the workshop.


Next meeting early March



  • Sunday mornings: 10-12
  • Weekly to enable access for as many as possible, as people will be away and unable to attend every week


  • We should have a committee of at least 3 members to organise and administer the club
  • We should have a set of club rules, on top of the Makespace membership rules
  • Parents are required to attend, it won't be possible to drop of kids and collect them later
  • Full control of children is required as Makespace has potentially dangerous equipment
  • Number of kids dependent on behaviour, typically up to 2 as we already have a majority of parents with 2
  • Three strikes rule on behaviour, three bad behaviour instances and the child will not be permitted back
  • Repeated ‘guests’ need to consider membership
  • A committee member should attend each day, be there 15 mins early and organise refreshments and projects plus ensure clear up afterwards.

Potential Projects

We need to have some level of structure to the sessions, especially at the start, after that attendees may want to do their own things. Some project ideas could be:

  • Raspberry Pi
  • Basic skills
    • Soldering
  • Standard kits e.g. Adafruit
  • Chain reaction
  • Competitions
    • Catapults
    • Cars
    • Robots
  • Laser cutter demo
  • 3D print demo
  • Educational component – e.g. what is this resistor doing?
  • Sewing
  • PaperCraft
    • I have a set of PaperCraft designs of locks, combination, cylinder etc, which are interesting to build and result in a working (but fragile) lock, RodW
    • Build hats and helmets with cardboard and hot glue
  • Use 123D catch to capture 3D models, possibly heads
  • Use 123D Creatures to design 3D monsters and cartoons, then 3d print them.
  • Egg dropping - create an enclosure/system to protect an uncooked egg when dropped from a set height, or fired from a catapult. BC
  • Water rockets - build an water rocket from a soda bottle, and launch them (may need to be a 2 week project, build rockets one week and launch them the next week) BC
  • Make a timing system for toy cars. BC
  • pin hole cameras. BC
  • spy stuff - make badges, long distance mic, spy cameras, spy gadgets. BC

Longer Projects

  • Create a mold and cast something - low tech by cutting out layers of ply, vacuum mold a heated plastic sheet and cast chocolate.
  • Conductive Fabric - Sewing, sensors and simple circuits.
  • 3D generative programs, create program (in openscad) that will generate 3D models, add parameterisation via thingiverse customizer script, 3D print
  • Create a polagraph, draw quirky pictures slowly
  • Raid Make magazine, Vinyl PCB Resistencourages custom/artistic circuit diagrams and the process teachs circuit board basics
  • build a maze solving robot and enter it in to Competitions. BC
  • build 3D printer - maybe a reprap. BC




  • Initial investment
    • Makespace ?
    • Founding members?
  • Weekly fees
    • £2 each non member to cover refreshments and consumables


  • Communication – who, when, how?
  • Wiki page, web page, twitter, calendar, meetup pages
  • Founding families
  • Outreach targets ?
  • Sources for kits and spares
  • Refreshments: Squash, snacks
  • Are two members needed for each club event so that one can escort non members through the space if required?
  • Future coordination with other groups?
  • Committee meetings – how frequently? Monthly initially
  • How many people interested?
  • Who will actively attend?
  • Next meeting end of Feb


Some links that could have useful information for us going forward:

Notes from Discussion with Maria Kettle

These are notes from my (MW) email discussion with Maria Kettle, Outreach Officer for Cambridge University Engineering Department. CUED hosts events for kids and their parents/guardians every other month, with projects and concerns very similar to Makespace's Family Makers.

What projects have worked well and what haven't?

  • Electrical things usually go OK and can be split into a minimum needed for success (build a hovercraft) plus an extension (put a skirt on your hovercraft, decorate a jitterbug). They are expensive in terms of components, batteries etc.
  • Rolled paper tube structures are cheap but hard to complete in 1 1/2 hours for a small team. Also, people seem to think that cranes, bridges, towers and boats are all the same - rolled paper tubes.
  • Strangely, the electrical things, hovercraft, jitterbugs, crazy kit cars are not the same, even though they are all based on a battery box wired to a motor...
  • My only disaster was making gliders, the 2nd event I did. The gliders were fine and people had fun but some kids had the bright idea of launching their gliders from the mezzanine floor of engineering reception. The uprights that support the handrail around this floor are 1950's spec - very widely spaced. A kid could launch itself through them very easily, a H&S nightmare. I now put "No Entry" signs at the bottom of the main building stairs.

Might it be possible to reuse any of your projects?

  • Hunt about here and see if you can find anything useful:

CUED Outreach Resources and here: Stem Clubs Activities

How do you source funding?

  • Outreach at Engineering is funded by some big wedges of cash from industrialists who have a vested interest in increasing the numbers going into the profession at all levels. The University brand helps massively here. At family events, I put out a bucket and ask for suggested donations of £5. The actual amount I get is very variable but overall it covers the cost of sandwich lunches for the volunteers.

Were there any legal challenges to setting up the programme?

  • We don't have event insurance. Instead, all the volunteers are STEM Ambassadors. This gives them personal liability insurance if they are at an event that is notified to our local STEMNET organization, STEM TEAM East, in advance. You can find out more about becoming a STEM Ambassador here: STEM Ambassador Application. The activities we do are not very dangerous.
  • We ask for signed photo consent from the responsible adults. I tell people that I use the photos to decorate my website, to decorate reports to sponsors and to decorate applications for cash. The wording of the form is much more wide open than this and I once had a solicitor parent refuse to sign it on grounds of its wideness. I have now decided that if this ever happens again, I will ask the lawyer-parent to help me draft something more realistic but I missed that opportunity. However, if someone refuses photo consent, don't ask why and don't take any photos.
  • The rules around maintaining the anonymity of adopted kids are VERY tight for good but horrid reasons. A photo of an adoptee at your event would tie the kid to a geographical location and could have very nasty consequences, kids are not lightly put up for adoption. Birth parents may not have seen the child for many years but they are usually sent carefully de-localised photos and news a couple of time per year so they could recognise a child on your website. Don't go there.
  • Also, in future, I'll tell people about photo consent in the information email I send out to confirm a booking. I had a mum reluctant to sign consent for her son's mate without asking mate's mum first.

What did you do about formulating a set of rules?

Trial and error! The rules we use are minimal and relate to

  • 1) All groups must have a responsible adult.
  • 2) Event volunteers only interact with kids professionally, that is, we are all in a room with lots of other people. We don't take kids to the loos, that is the job of a responsible adult if necessary. Stickers are handed to kids for them to stick onto themselves. This seems very paranoid as I write it but it is standard school practice. There is a CUED policy on working with children and vulnerable adults that covers this stuff in detail, I've attached a copy [link to document].
  • 3) Rules to stop kid A accidentally trashing kid B's hovercraft/boat or kid C's rubber band powered helicopter getting mashed into kid D's hair. We have testing areas, and all testing must be done there.

What adult/child/teacher ratios to you recommend?

  • At least 1 responsible adult per group and don't have more kids in that group than the adult can cope with. This is flexible to allow for bigger groups of more experienced participants and smaller groups of younger kids. I recruit as many volunteers as possible, having too many is never an issue, sadly. The extra help they provide becomes an icing on the cake for family groups. I have a balloon powered bus activity that is mostly colouring to offer to very young children who arrive on the coat tails of older siblings.

Are you aware of external sources of funding for children/technology programmes?

  • No.

Notes from the Maker Club Playbook

These are notes that I (MW) have taken on the Maker Club Playbook (see the Links section above). The Playbook is a guide for setting up maker groups with older kids (ages 12-18) to get projects ready for Maker Faires. Even though we will not be preparing projects for Maker Faires (not yet, at least!), and there will be younger kids in our group, there is a lot from the Playbook that is helpful and relevant. Below I pull out what I think is most useful (but another person to scour the Playbook and find other important points would be good). In particular, I want to pay attention to the sections on philosophy and documentation: Ensuring our group has the right attitudes and making sure that we document our ideas and accomplishments is crucial. All is up for discussion, of course!

Philosophy/Approach (p. 5):

  • "Makers believe that if you can imagine it, you can make it. We see ourselves as more than consumers--we are productive; we are creative. Everyone is a Maker, and our world is what we make it."
  • "Makers comprise a community of crative and technical people that help one another do better. They are open, inclusive, encouraging and generous in spirit."
  • "Makers celebrate other Makers -- what they make, how they make it and the enthusiasm and passion that drives them."
  • "Maker Clubs are about exhibition, not competition. We don't see Makers pitting themselves against each other. We hope each Maker gets useful feedback on what they exhibit, and that the feedback is offered in a spirit of generosity and received with similar openess and magnanimity."
  • And from p. 7: "...[T]here are no winners or losers -- anything that's cool is fair game. It's not a competition and there aren't prizes, so there are no judges deciding who has succeeded and who has failed. ... [M]ost importantly, we notice that all Makers are curious and motivated people."

Starter Projects (pp. 8-9)

  • "We recommend that you make something [simple] together to get your feet we and see what it's like to work together"
  • The Playbook recommends many websites for finding starter projects including Make:Projects, simpler Instructables projects and Build Howtoons projects. [We should see also the links that Maria Kettle from CUED has suggested.]
  • "When choosing a starter project, consider the diverse interests and skill sets of the members of your club, and make sure that the project you choose is open-ended enough to welcome all kinds of budding Makers into the culture."

Plussing (p. 11)

  • "Pixar uses the term 'plussing' to men finding what's good about an idea and making it even better. In the Young Makers program, plussing sessions provide an opportunity for project teams to share their ideas, progress, challenges and next steps with the participants..."
  • "Through the Young Makers program we are modeling and sustaining a collaborative culture, and having highly interactive plussing plays a key role in reaching that goal. Admittedly the adult mentors and volunteers tend to have the most to say during the plussing sessions. It takes a lot of work to get kids to comment on one another's projects, but it is critical you put the effort into encouraging the kids to plus too."

Documenting (pp. 12-13)

I (MW) am keen that we start documenting the Family Maker mornings early on and have a plan for how we'd like to present what we do there. It will be important for record keeping and later on for outreach. Minimally we need (I think) project notebooks for each kid or family group and someone designated to take pictures at each session.

  • "It's not enough to just make something--it's also important to be able to tell others about the projects and why they are great. To tell their stories better, your club's project teams will want to think ahead to make sure they have the tools they need to document their processes and their final project."
  • "Documentation could take many forms, but whatever medium the members choose to tell their story, the important thing is that it captures why and how they made what they made." This could include:
  • "Notebooks, blogs, project binders, photos, posters, how-to's (to contribute back to the larger Maker community), slideshows, videos, digital stories, project books.

Designing creative environments (p. 16)

  • "Make a variety of materials available, but also visible and easy-to-find. You might use clear or mesh containers that members can scan visually when they're looking for something specific or letting their imagination wander as they have Maker's Block. Keep something like an 'idea rummage box' in the space, where members can throw in cool clippings and clever projects they think could inspire others. Choose well-placed shelves and wall space for showcasing examples of past projects and current activities to seed ideas and inspiration."

Safety and Training (pp. 18-19)

There is a lot of useful information in this section (that cannot be summed up in a few quotes) such as "avoid using a table saw when you can," "aim away from yourself," "secure your work when using hand or power tools" and "don't touch a bare wire, or cut any wire, until you're sure where the other end goes." It's worth going through all of the points in the Playbook to make sure we've considered everything.

  • A good rhyme: "Protect. Double-check. Aim away. Clamp it. Focus. Never play."

Mentors (pp. 20-21)

As the kids start to develop ideas and projects of their own, we might want to find mentors to help (especially if the parents are not knowledgeable enough to help). The mentoring section of the Playbook is very good and worth a close read.

  • "Mentors are adults who are interested in working with youth and who may be experienced in one or more forms of making. Mentors answer technical questions, address supply issues, pass on their knowledge of tool usage and safety, and help mange realistic project-build schedules. Along the way, mentors might exploit 'teachable moments' to explain underlying math, science and engineering concepts."
  • "We have gleaned a number of tips from effective mentors who have participated in the Young Makers program [each one of these is fully fleshed out in the Playbook]: Help define scope; Help define schedules; Nurture note taking; Embrace failure and keep it safe; Avoid empty praise; Use your down-time well."

Setup a website and/or a blog (p. 27)

  • "We strongly urge all clubs to create a website. We also encourage every project team within a club to maintain a blog to track their project's progress. A website is a great tool to use to connect to your club members, as well as connecting to other blggs, and the greater community of Young Maker supporters... You can use it to document project made by your club, to recruit new members, and to maintain a schedule of build sessions."

Come up with an identity (p. 27)

  • "One advantage of a club is the opportunity to create a shared identity. Such things as adopting a mascot, designing a logo, having T-shirts made, having a website and picking a fun name can all help to create a sense of shared purpose and belonging. You'll probably want to pick an identity with member input, but don't spend too much valuable meeting time word-smithing your group's name. Then, in true Young Maker spirit, ask one of your Young Makers to create the logo and perhaps even manage the website. Some project teams may want to create a T-shirt to wear when they exhibit or present their work."

Kick it off (pp. 29-30)

  • "...[A]t the first meeting of the season, we have started with some low-key initiations: very brief introductions, then a little bit of making, and we end the gathering by giving all the new Young Makers brand new Maker's Notebooks where they can start jotting notes, making sketches and diagrams and recording things they find inspiring. We also ask that members sign an agreement that spells out the things they should expect of their experience and the commitments they've made. See the Resources section for a sample Participant Agreement."
  • "You might also start your session with some ways to break the ice and also dig up helpful data."
  • "Some goals for the kickoff meeting: 1) Introduce everyone; 2) Distribute notebooks or ask members to start them; 3) Get a sense of who is in the group, their skill level, and whether they have a project picked out; 4) Ask all participants to sign participation agreements."


Action Owner Expected Date Comments
Create a Meetup for the next meeting
Start separate discussions on the Google group for the areas that need to be clarified Steve U
Talk to Laura about the legal elements Steve U
Contact details for Maria Kettle at Engineering Faculty Meg W (MW) done - notes above
Contact friend at the Seattle kids' robotics club for tips on setting up a club Meg W (MW) done - waiting for reply
Define the steps to set the club up
Define what we need to get access to the Makespace classroom
Membership for Chris, Meg and Rod Chris V, Meg W, Rod W
Risk assessments – what needs to be done?
Do we need at least one founder in attendance?