Summer G.E.A.R. workshops offered through Great Plains MakerSpace

Girls learn about computer programming during a workshop in the Garden City Community College computer lab offered by Great Plains MakerSpace.

By SCOTT AUST, FCEDC Director of Communications

Though the organization is working to find a permanent location, the Great Plains MakerSpace began a program this summer designed to spark girls’ interest in science and technology.

Shannon Dick, Finney County Economic Development Corp. strategic analyst, said Wednesday during the FCEDC’s monthly board of directors meeting that Great Plains MakerSpace is using a $5,000 grant provided recently from the Women of Purpose fund to implement a summer workshop series called GEAR (Girls in Engineering and Robotics).

GEAR is a southwest Kansas program to promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math to girls of all ages through collaborative projects and activities. The workshops include activities related to teaching circuitry, programming, 3D design, 3D printing, and more.

The first class on June 16 taught girls ages 8 to 15 about programming and “makey makeys.” Kids learned how to turn fruit, play-dough and other material into an instrument or video game controller through coding and hands on projects.

“This first time, it was almost a full class,” Dick said. “They learned about programming using a really simple program. Also electronics using things like alligator clips and play-dough to make a really basic game. It was really neat.”

Another workshop this Saturday is full but there will be two additional workshops in July. Spots are limited, so Dick encouraged those who may be interested in signing up to pay attention to the Great Plains MakerSpace Facebook page for registration information because the classes fill up quickly.

This Saturday, Dick said, the girls will be making a “magic wand” using some sort of electronics. He added that the first workshop in July will be for younger kids, roughly 5 to 7, who will learn about “squishy circuits”, which teaches circuitry using play dough.

“It will be exciting to see how it goes,” he said. “We have had requests to do similar things for boys as well, so we’ll see if we can get similar funds to get a class like that going.”

Dick said Sarah Drubinskiy, who teaches math and robotics at Charles Stones, is the lead teacher for the workshops. Each workshop is independent; in other words, each is a stand-alone class and a child doesn’t need to take one in order to do the next one.

Great Plains MakerSpace is a nonprofit organization working to build a membership-based workshop somewhere in or near the downtown core area of Garden City.

“Even though we don’t have a location yet, things are really starting to roll for MakerSpace, with or without a building,” Dick said.

The goals of the MakerSpace project are to provide a workspace and tools for hobbyists, inventors and entrepreneurs in the area; encourage a hands-on, do it yourself spirit; and keep alive traditional skills, like woodworking, quilting, metal working and others in addition to new technologies like 3D printing and robotics.