In late December we were pleased to host local author Jason Fagone to discuss his recently released book “Ingenious” about American invention as exemplified in the teams competing to build a 200-mpg car and win the HybridX prize. One of the engineers from a midwest team, Kevin Smith, made the trip to speak as well, and brought the car he and his team made by hand in their barn. That day also saw the most snowfall in Philly in about 2 years. Though we knew the weather would deter quite a few people, our guest speakers kept in frequent phone contact, and when the program coordinator showed up to open up the doors, there were several eager participants waiting in the lobby.
As Jason and Kevin updated us from the road, our participants helped shovel the loading area outside our front door, since the plows hadn’t been by yet. Over 90 minutes from the original start time, Jason and Kevin arrived, delivered their presentation, and participated in a great group discussion. Several of the participants were from the first HybridX team fielded by West Philly High School, who have since gone on to pursue mechanical engineering at a local university, or become apprentice engineers for Philly’s transit authority. Overall it was inspiring to see the die-hard fans wait patiently to have a chance to inspect the hand-made car, in the snow, and invite those driving by to join the event.
All combined, the happenings of late 2013 have indicated a growing awareness of Dept. of Making + Doing where fun and interesting things are happening. As we continue to get regulars at our weekly “Drop In + Do” night and our workshops, we are starting to focus on how to have an effective on-going dialogue to build a relationship with those participants. Social media seems like the most likely avenue for that dialogue but to get to know the segments of our diverse audience better, we will be hosting several focus groups with them in early 2014, the results of which we will be very happy to share here.