Classroom Technology

Baltimore Maker Education Goes Mobile in Open Works Van

By Taylor Lewis — July 12, 2016 2 min read
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By guest blogger Taylor Lewis

One of the country’s largest maker spaces unveiled a mobile option this week in the form of a van.

Baltimore’s Open Works main maker space won’t officially open until September, but the Open Works Mobile van was on display Tuesday in the 34,000-square foot building’s parking lot.

The idea for the van developed as its home base was in design, with input coming from the surrounding community. “We went on a listening tour and found out how people might want to use this van for education, to improve their neighborhoods, and for workforce development,” said Open Works general manager Will Holman at the unveiling.

Models from around the country also influenced the van’s design, which includes a large blank space on its side, to be used as a whiteboard. On display at its unveiling were portable 3-D printers, which can be transported around the city.

Open Works has partnered with the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) to develop a curriculum and programming for the mobile lab.

“The larger concept here is to be area of education that sits outside of any one institution or any one organization and is in the community and is part of the larger life of the city,” said MICA provost David Bogen at the event. The partnership also includes a MICA internship for a master’s student to provide “hands-on education” for the mobile lab.

The van is an extension of a facility that was originally constructed as a railway warehouse and served most recently as a thrift store. The northern Baltimore neighborhood it resides in is nicknamed the “donut hole” — surrounded by everything but with nothing inside.

Johnston Square Elementary School, which sits three blocks away from Open Works, was one of the schools that provided input into the development of the maker space. Principal Raymond Braxton, who grew up in the area, was eager to help with a project that lives in the neighborhood, but can also travel to where it’s needed.

“I’ve got a couple of teachers that are like, ‘So I can talk about something in class, and then actually go do it and make it, and read about it?’” Braxton excitedly shared while construction workers milled about the building. “Our curriculum doesn’t really provide a lot of opportunities for application, so this is actually going to give us that opportunity.”

Those opportunities will range from computer labs and sewing machines on the first floor to wood and metal working in the basement. A Computer Numerical Control (CNC) router was the first machine to be installed, sitting in the shadow of active rail lines.

Open Works will also house a café that can be used by anyone in the community.

Top photo: Open Works general manager Will Holman speaks at the unveiling of the Open Works Mobile maker space—Taylor Lewis

Side photo: Johnston Square Elementary School principal Raymond Baxter and MICA provost David Bogen speak at the unveiling of the Open Works Mobile maker space—Taylor Lewis

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.