Research

We continually research programs for kids, community shops, and other resources to learn how to improve our programs and eventually open a community shop of our own.  Here are some of our notes.  For financial info (which we have not posted) and email address for contacts at the organizations below, contact Deb for more info:  aerosquirrel [-at-] gmail.com

Sprout & Co. (Boston)

thesprouts.org/

Contact:  Mike Nagle

Sprout is a small community shop in Summerville, MA that provides classes and access to fabrication equipment to adults (with some limited programming for kids).  Equipment includes mechanical tools (wood and metal machining, and rapid prototyping), electrical stations, and bio/chem "biohacker" stations.  They also have community space for meetings and presentations.

Income is generated by charging for innovative classes held at the center.  Open shop use is then free.  They do not use the "gym membership" model as seen in other shops.  Prices are all very reasonable to encourage attendance and growth in membership.  Classes generally take one of 3 forms:

  • Weekend classes (1/2 day to 2 days)  $100-150ish
  • Short Course (4-8 wks, 2-3 hrs/wk)  $250ish
  • Semester Course  $500ish
They have some classes for kids, often with partnership with Camp Kaleidoscope and other locations in the area.  Mike also works with Camp Kaleidoscope (from which Sprout was born). 

All courses are taught by volunteers.  Class content is very real and has authentic context.  For example, a recent course covered the design of wind turbines and computation of wind turbine efficiency.  Students completed most of the design cycle in this class where they designed their own turbines, fabricated them (via rapid prototyping), and computed their efficiency.

The program was started with a pool of instructors but no large customer base.  The customer base is brought in via classes and monthly recruiting events.  The event is a free pasta dinner with talk or performance by a volunteer.  This brings in people for a low stress no commitment event who might otherwise be on the fence about joining a community shop.  The event typically brings in 60-100ppl.  Membership in general is at 40 ppl monthly, maybe 400-500 total.

Rent is comparable to Altadena/Pasadena area.  They sublet out 1/4 of their space to a design studio.  Many of their machines are donated, and maintained by the folks who donated them (including a Maker-Bot rapid prototyping system).



Tech Shop (SF Bay Area)


The Sawdust Shop (Mountain View, CA)


The CalTech Student Shop (Pasadena, CA)


Tinkering School (SF Bay Area)


Machine Project (LA)


ReDiscover Center (LA)


Exploratorium (SF Bay Area)

Comments