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SparkTruck, fablab on wheels from Stanford University, comes to Baltimore Wednesday

Photo courtesy of SparkTruck. SparkTruck arrived in Baltimore on Tuesday with stops at Patterson Park Public Charter School and Maryland Institute College of Art. On Wednesday, the truck rolls through Liberty Elementary School starting at 10 a.m. By the end of its national tour in October, it will have driven 14,000 miles visiting schools and […]

Photo courtesy of SparkTruck.

SparkTruck arrived in Baltimore on Tuesday with stops at Patterson Park Public Charter School and Maryland Institute College of Art. On Wednesday, the truck rolls through Liberty Elementary School starting at 10 a.m. By the end of its national tour in October, it will have driven 14,000 miles visiting schools and cities in 31 states.

In March, thirty hours before its Kickstarter campaign for $25,000 was set to expire, the SparkTruck team out of Stanford University’s d.school still needed $5,000. With the money, the group of Stanford students were going to create a fablab on wheels, kitted out with 3D printers, a laser cutter, a vinyl cutter and tools like hammers and screwdrivers, that would travel to schools around the San Francisco Bay Area.

Take a video tour of the SparkTruck:

Led by Betamore co-founder Mike Brenner, a group of techies in Baltimore collaborated to raise $2,300 toward the SparkTruck Kickstarter. While the amount was short of the $5,000, the SparkTruck team nonetheless hit its Kickstarter goal in late March, and the effort from Baltimore became the inspiration for them to take the mobile fablab on a cross-country trek. [Full disclosure: Mike Brenner is a partner with Technically Baltimore.]

The purpose of a fablab on wheels, aside from the ability to vinyl-cut your way through Route 66?

“To push back against the wave of standardization,” says Jason Chua, 23, who studied product design and mechanical engineering at Stanford. “We wanted students to create their own education … and show them that it’s OK to not get the answer right the first time.”

Chua says the truck, and the tools inside, are meant to demonstrate to kids that they have the “processes for failing your way forward,” and that not doing something correctly the first time around can lead to better discoveries later on.

“There’s nothing quite as tangible as trying to build something and not have it work the first time,” he says.

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Andrew Zaleski

Andrew Zaleski is a freelance journalist in Philadelphia and the former lead reporter for Technical.ly Baltimore. Before moving to Philadelphia in June 2014, he was a contributing writer to Baltimore City Paper and a Tech Check commentator for WYPR 88.1 FM, Baltimore city’s National Public Radio affiliate. He has written for The Atlantic, Outside, Richmond magazine, Washington City Paper, Baltimore magazine, Baltimore Style magazine, Next City, Grist.org, The Atlantic Cities, and elsewhere.

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