The SparkTruck was an educational build-mobile—essentially a makerspace on wheels. In the summers of 2012 and 2013, the SparkTruck crew drove across the country, spreading the fun of hands-on learning and encouraging kids to find their inner maker.
Our project began as SparkLab, a group of Stanford students curious about making, education and technology. The original team was Eugene Korsunskiy, Aaron Peck, and Prat Ganapathy, who were soon joined by Kathayoon Khalil, Jason Chua, and Diane Lee. As part of a year-long design thesis project, we talked with teachers, students, and other experts about hands-on learning. We were shocked to find that due to tight budgets and strict testing requirements, many schools didn’t have the flexibility or equipment to support design and maker-based education.
We decided to do something about it. We ran a Kickstarter campaign we created during the d.school's StoryViz communication class to raise money for a truck and some high-tech maker equipment, like a laser cutter and 3D printers. Our plan was to drive around to a handful of local Bay Area schools to run hands-on workshops with middle schoolers.
We were blown away by the support and encouragement we received from the community, so we expanded our vision. Reborn as SparkTruck, we set out on a cross-country road trip, traveling across prairies and over mountaintops, through towns and cities far and wide, enabling kids to prototype their way to creative confidence and self-empowerment.
In 2012 we visited over
In the summer of 2012, we drove 15,323 miles across 33 different states, visited over 2,700 students in more than 70 different locations, and collected countless stories. Here is our blog from our 2012 trip. Also, check out this documentary that we made during the trip.
After the first road trip, SparkTruck found its home with Susie Wise at the Stanford d.school. Susie and the K12 Lab Network team worked hard to find and train the next generation of Sparkees, and in the summer of 2013 they took the truck on its second cross-continental voyage, chronicling their adventures in this blog.
Along the way, we were featured in Core 77, the Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Wired, CNNMoney, Fast Company, Wall Street Journal, MSNBC and Make Magazine. We were also honored to receive the Fast Company Innovation By Design Award, and several Editor’s Choice and Educator’s Choice awards at the Bay Area Maker Faire in 2012 and 2013.
In 2014, Katie Krummeck, the new Program Manager at the K12 Lab Network, took the wheel of the truck. Under her leadership, we set out to tackle a new challenge: How might SparkTruck create a lasting impact in schools? After our second road trip, we noticed that maker education was starting to take hold in communities, and we wondered what we could do to deepen its impact. So we began working with educators to inspire, train, and support them in designing and implementing design-based, maker-inspired, hands-on learning experiences for their students. We saw the SparkTruck as a powerful tool to catalyze teachers around this way of teaching, and as a bridge between content experts, teachers, and skilled makers.
In the summer of 2014, we brought together local Bay Area educators to participate in the SparkTruck Teacher Corps. We spent four days together learning the tools of the truck while discussing the intersections of the maker movement and design thinking. Teachers invented ten new workshops to teach students how to make something real, using their imaginations and their ability to problem-solve.
In preparation for the Teacher Corps, the SparkTruck team developed a series of pedagogical tools and resources as well as a SparkTruck Instructables channel that have been utilized by educators all over the country. We also developed the “How to Make a SparkTruck” guide to help support the many individuals and communities who reached out to us wanting to create a mobile makerspace of their own. We’ve been lucky enough to inspire and advise projects such as STE(A)M Truck, Geekbus, Girls Driving For a Difference, and many others.
For the rest of the 2014-2015 school year and for several years following, the SparkTruck was used to inspire and support maker-based learning experiences in Bay Area schools.
In its newest chapter, the SparkTruck is moving to Southern Methodist University, where it will continue to be a proud catalyst of K-12 maker education initiatives in Dallas, TX and beyond. Behind the steering wheel will be Katie Krummeck—who ran the project at Stanford before heading to SMU to direct the Deason Innovation Gym—along with an amazing team of designer-educators.
In the 5 years since its inception, SparkTruck has crisscrossed the country, engaged thousands of kids and educators, and inspired a number of maker education initiatives. In these years, we’ve come to realize that our mission is to develop and spread pedagogical best practices for maker-based education, with the goal of moving maker-based education beyond a fad and into the mainstream. We think that the truck’s move to SMU is a great step in that direction.
With the arrival of the SparkTruck at SMU, we will be launching the SMU Maker Education Initiative to support the integration of the maker education movement in K-12 schools. With the resources at its disposal, we think SMU is in a great position to become a leader in developing and sharing the best practices, design principles and frameworks of maker education in K-12 and higher education.The team at SMU has further developed the approach the maker education that was inspired by the SparkTruck. They continue to focus on open-ended, student-centered learning experiences and a specific interest in developing resilience, curiosity, collaboration and creative confidence in students.
In March 2017, the truck rolled away from Stanford and hit the road. During the road trip to Dallas, SparkTruck stopped in Taos, NM to run workshops for educators, kids and their families with the School Zone, Twirl, and SMU at Taos.
For this next chapter in its life, the SparkTruck will get rebranded with a new name and website. The team at SMU is still working on those, so stay tuned for the unveiling! The current website (www.sparktruck.org) will stay up with its blog history and resources. For updates on the truck’s new adventures in maker education follow @MakerEdSMU on Twitter.