A personal maker space

Maker spaces are a hot topic in Kathmandu. Karkhana is well known for its space, and for extending its activities from technology to science education. It has also supported maker space work in both private and government schools.

Nepal Communitere is a Nepali run non-profit founded after the 2015 earthquake, which provides a collaborative space for the community. It gives individuals and organizations the means to develop innovative solutions and become self-reliant. A key part of its work is maker spaces for clothing, ironwork, and other media.

There are also Maker Faires, maker keti’s (especially supportive for girls and women), and many other examples.

Yesterday I happened upon another, but this one, as far as I can tell, is an individual effort.

Jenish showed me his car. It’s 16 inches long.  There are wooden wheels, six of them, much like an extra-terrestrial rover might have. That’s useful for the rough street it has to navigate.

Steering is controlled through a normal sized wheel. It’s made of a hose, bent into a circle and held by tape. The main structural elements are from bamboo, a widely available resource. The steering is just reliable enough not to be frustrating, and just unpredictable enough to be fun.

View from our balcony this morning, showing part of Balthali, fog, and the LangTang Himalayas beyond.


Karkhana, a factory for learning

20161105_110713Karkhana, which means “factory” in Nepali, is a place where people make things and learn through doing.

The teachers are engineers, designers, artists, and scientists, but in contrast to some traditional models of learning, the environment is a teacher as well. The Karkhana site is filled with marvels: home-built antennas, a laser cutter, colorful child-designed posters, musical instruments, and more, which make the visitor ask questions and want to touch and make things.

So, it’s an education company and makerspace, one that turns the classroom into a lab for discovery. There’s an excellent slide show with many photos explaining their approach and an overview brochure describing the variety of classes they run.

20161109_164243Karkhana works directly with learners ages 8-14 through an after-school program. They also do teacher professional development. I’ve been fortunate to participate in both of these.

There were several good things I noticed beyond the general idea of learning through hands-on inquiry. One was an interesting mix of design though felt pen and whiteboard (or more precisely, whitetable), through physical construction, and with the aid of computers. The point was not to let the medium control the activity, but to let each medium offer affordances that could further the goal–planning a school fair, designing instruments for use on a space station, or building a musical instrument.

20161105_104138Another was the concern for making the Karkhana approach accessible to the ordinary school and ordinary teacher. In addition to workshops for teachers, Karkhana develops a special technology: ziplock bags filled with simple, low-cost materials that can be used in a low-tech, minimal skill situation.

Karkhana already makes new kind of learning available to many children and adults. But it also stands as an example of what could be done someday in Nepali schools, or for that matter, schools anywhere.