The purpose of this guide is to provide ideas, resources, and inspiration for making activities when all the advanced tools of a makerspace aren't available.
Even when you are limited to the materials commonly found in your home, dorm room, or office, there are still lots of ways to engage hands-on learning for academic, entrepreneurial, and creative purposes.
Physical prototypes, even when extremely "crude" or "low resolution," can be very valuable in a wide range of creative, academic, and entrepreneurial processes.
In almost all use cases, it's important to remember that the model is PART of a process, and doesn't have to stand completely on its own. You'll be able to explain what the model means, so it doesn't have to be perfect.
Physical objects help us tell stories. A model, or set of models, can serve as props or characters in narrative we use to explain ourselves and the world.
Physical objects help us elicit feedback. Presenting a physical object to a person is a great way to open up a conversation, and get them talking about their own perspective an experience. Do they like the features of the object? Are there things they would change? How does it make them feel?
Physical objects help make the abstract concrete. When we communicate only in words, meaning can be missed as our listener's attention drifts, or they misinterpret our meaning. Models provide a focal point for conversation and meaning-making.
Physical objects help us check ourselves. Making things with our hands activates different parts of our brain. This work often forces us to look at problems from new angles, opening up new pathways for further exploration, or identifying untested assumptions
Physical objects build community and connection. When we make models for others, either as gifts or part of an ideation process, we demonstrate that we HEAR them, that we empathize with their feelings and point of view. Iterating on a model with someone else provides more opportunities to actively listen, and to demonstrate empathy.
Some of the processes that benefit from Model Making include:
What follows are some categories of use for different types of items you might find in your home. This list does not include many typical "crafting supplies," as if you have those, you probably already know what they are for.
Even if you have access to proper crafting supplies, you are still encourage to peruse this list, as it may get you looking at everyday materials in creative ways that could contribute to your model-making.
This is NOT an exhaustive list. What else can you find in your house in these categories?
These are materials that carry cultural significance by representing complex ideas in a simple, culturally-contextualized form. In semiotics, we would call them "Signifiers" of some cultural meaning. These are extremely useful, because for example instead of making a model that represents "beauty myths" you can use a barbie doll, or image from a beauty product ad. Bear in mind that in most use cases you'll be explaining your model with words as well, so the meaning doesn't have to be obviously apparent to everyone immediately.
A more personalized version of this category is "materials that mean something to YOU," for modeling exercises where you need to express something about yourself.
These materials can add decoration, color, and emotional content to your models through the addition of color and texture. Fabric tends to humanize your models.
These are items that can useful for making parts of a model because its shape suggests other things. Use your imagination: grab an object at random and ask yourself: What else can this be?
Maybe you never threw these out from your childhood, maybe you still love them, maybe you have a younger sibling or nephew...
Review the list of materials under "Ideas for Materials." Search your home/office/dorm/streets for as many materials as you can that fit in these categories. Don't just find items on the list, but consider how other every day items might fit into one or more categories.
Take pictures of every item and put them in a document under the appropriate category.
For the contest, though an item might fit under more than one category, for the purpose of points, you have to pick one category for each item.
Take a concept from your class's reading material or discussion, and make a model that represents this concept as a physical manifestation.
The more abstract the concept, the better. You're going to explain the model and how it represents the concept, so don't worry about the model standing on its own or being "obvious".
Some aspects to consider could be:
Pair up with someone in your class or group.
Interview each other. The conversation can be open-ended, or you can try one or more of these prompts:
Whatever the prompt, and whatever the response, ask the interviewee follow up questions like:
Practice active listening by repeating back what they told you in your own words, using phrases like:
After doing Activity 3: The Interview, make a gift for your interviewee based on some portion of what you learned from them.
The gift doesn't need to be perfect or beautiful. It should, however, demonstrate that you listened deeply to them during the interview, and you now understand something special about them.
When you present your gift, provide an explanation of what you learned from the interview, what you chose to focus on for your gift, and what you made for them. Explain a bit about what the gift represents AND the process/materials you used to make it.
If this activity is done online, you may not be able to physically present the gift. In which case, some pictures with a caption could be a nice substitute
After doing Activity 3: The Interview, design a PRODUCT PROTOTYPE for your interviewee (now your USER), that meets a need or solves a problem for them.
Begin by making a problem statement, which defines what the user is trying to DO, and some insight about them that will help you to build something that will appeal to them. This is usually of the format:
"[User Name] needs a way to [Need]. Interestingly, in their world, [Insight]"
(note: the reason you need this statement in this format is to make sure you have a CLEAR and CONCISE expression of the user's need, not a vague understanding)
Then, make several rough sketches of potential solutions.
Present these sketches to your user for HONEST, CRITICAL feedback. You don't want to hear "it's fine," you want to hear about PROBLEMS, missed opportunities, misunderstandings, etc. The goal here is not to get uncritical approval, but to improve your understanding of your user, and of the requirements for the design.
With this feedback in had, build your prototype.
When done, present your prototype to the group, explaining:
Here are some tutorials for making your own making supplies.
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