DM+D Futures

DM+D Partners
August 25, 2015

To the DM+D community.

Over the course of nearly three years, The Department of Making + Doing (DM+D) and its partners have worked together to build a community of engaged Philadelphians that has helped thousands of youth, families, artists and educators build confidence and competence with design thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and using traditional as well as high-tech tools. However, as the total cost of operating DM+D continues to increase and the current lease on the space at 3711 Market Street set to end on November 30th, 2015, the DM+D Partners—University City Science Center (UCSC), NextFab, Public Workshop, and The Hacktory—find ourselves at a crossroads. While our efforts have been incredibly productive and fruitful, we believe that it is no longer sustainable to continue at the current location. Therefore, we have decided not to extend the lease beyond November 30th.

“The DM+D community of partners and participants is moving beyond the bounds of one physical space to continue our missions, touch more lives, and engage in making the world a better place. I would like to express my gratitude to the Science Center and Wexford for their financial and operational support of DM+D – without which, the partnership would not have been able to impact positively so many lives.” remarked Evan Malone, NextFab’s President.

DM+D was established in 2012 as a collaboration among the four member organizations, with support from the Knight Foundation, ArtPlace America and the Barra Foundation. The partnership has been successful in growing the capacity of all of the organizations, and we’re grateful to have had the opportunity to achieve this success in collaboration with one another. DM+D’s Program Manager, Mike Darfler had this to say: “The DM+D Partnership built a space where all of the partners could explore and grow their organizations, their impact and their capacity. In that regard it was wildly successful.”

Alex Gilliam of Public Workshop commented, “DM+D has enabled us to build more great things and fabricate them better, while providing the space, tools and community to grow a diverse team of truly empowered Building Heroes who are legitimate change-agents in their own communities.”

Georgia Guthrie of The Hacktory said, “Being part of DM+D has helped our organization grow our capacity exponentially. We’ve been able to launch a variety of new programs with the benefit of the tools and location DM+D provides, including our Kid’s Club after-school and Unknown Territory Artist Residency. We look forward to continuing this work and growing our offerings in a new location in West Philly.”

“We’re proud of the successes we’ve accomplished through the DM+D partnership and as individual organizations,” adds Science Center President & CEO Stephen S. Tang, Ph.D., MBA. “Similar to companies that graduate from an incubator or accelerator, we view DM+D as having served as an ideal launching pad for many exciting things to come, and we will continue to do our part to support the maker movement in Philadelphia.”
Each of the partners is fully committed to building upon the work that they have accomplished and are actively exploring new opportunities and locations at which to continue and expand their efforts. In the meantime we will continue to run programming at DM+D through October, including Drop In + Do, youth and family programming, and skills based adult workshops. Moving forward, over the next few months we will be collecting and capturing as much information, knowledge and insight about the challenges, success and impact of DM+D as possible. Our hope is that by doing so our experiences can be transformed into knowledge which can become an asset to you and the DM+D community, as well as our funders, partners and supporters.

Stay tuned for more updates soon.

Best Regards,

The DM+D Partners

Mike Darfler, DM+D
Georgia Guthrie, The Hacktory
Alex Gilliam, Public Workshop
Evan Malone, NextFab
David Clayton, Science Center – FirstHand


A Summary of DM+D Achievements

Milestones and successes achieved since 2012:

  • The Hacktory is now operating as independent 501(c)3 organization
  • Public Workshop is activating more public spaces than ever, in the city and across the country
  • NextFab successfully launched a second maker-space in South Kensington and continues to successfully incubate early-stage companies
  • The Science Center has grown its Breadboard program into FirstHand, which recently received the US2020 2015 STEM Mentoring Award.


…and a few collective accomplishments of DM+D:

  • 1,500 program hours
  • 600 programs & workshops held
  • 6,000 program participants
  • Drop In + Do, a weekly open project night, has consistently attracted a steady stream of attendees ages 5-85
  • Received press coverage in:Make Magazine,, GRID Magazine,, Flying Kite, Edutopia, Philly, Local ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX affiliates, Newsworks/WHYY, Geekadelphia, BillyPenn, Generocity, Play Scapes blog, Campus Philly, Philadelphia Inquirer, Metropolis Magazine, CityPaper, Canadian Broadcasting  Corp.
  • Established a network of more than 40 educational and philanthropic organizations, including: Samuel Huey School, Science Leadership Academy, Julia R. Masterman, the Henry Lea School, William Meredith School, Robeson High School, South Philadelphia School, KiPP West Charter School, City School, Boys Latin Charter School, Morton McMichael School, St. Helena Incarnation, Drexel University, Philadelphia University, University of Pennsylvania, University of the Arts, Girl Scouts of South-East PA, People’s Emergency Center, North 5th Revitalization Project, Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, Philadelphia Beekeepers Alliance, Neighborhood Bike Works, Smith Memorial Playground, Community Design Collaborative, Temple University, ExCITe Center, Schuylkill River Development Corporation, the Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Music Lab, Drexel Dornsife Center, The Philadelphia Science Festival, Philadelphia Water Dept, Fairmount Water Works, Food Trust, PhillyCAM, Urban Technology Project


Continuation of DM+D programs and related activities by DM+D partners:

  • NextFab will be offering workshops, classes, events, and facility access hours tailored specifically to youth and families. NextFab’s North 4th Street location will be hosting Secret Storage on September 20th, with other workshops to be announced.
  • Public Workshop and Tiny WPA will continue to expand their work with partners in communities throughout the region and country, empowering people of all ages to design and build innovative improvements in their communities. This includes expanding The Building Hero Project, our community design leadership program and social enterprise.
  • The Hacktory is excited to continue our activities in a new location in West Philadelphia. Being part of DM+D has helped our organization grow our capacity exponentially. We’ve been able to launch a variety of new programs with the benefit of the tools and location DM+D provides, including our after-school and artist residency programs. We look forward to continuing this work and continuing to grow our offerings in a new location.
  • FirstHand will continue to engage middle school aged youth in STEAM programs and activities, based at its FirstHand Lab location on the Science Center campus, that enable students to design experiments, test hypotheses and work toward final projects to share with the community.  FirstHand programs are supplemented with mentorships from the Science Center’s resident companies, where students learn about and experience real-life STEM entrepreneurship in real-world applications.

Garnet Valley Middle School 5.05.15

JULY 02, 2015

IMG_4019 (1)

This past winter, Victoria and her mother wandered into DM+D after dinner one evening. After a quick tour and laser cutter demonstration, Victoria was hooked, and left determined to find a way to bring her 8th grade classmates at Garnet Valley Middle School to the space for a field trip. Her interest in and enthusiasm for DM+D convinced Victoria’s teacher, Renee Fledderman, to bring a large group of students to DM+D to get in touch with their inner maker. Several months later, these curious middle-schoolers spent the day learning the basics of circuitry, laser-cutting and power tools to construct their own light box.

As soon as they arrived, the group immediately got hands-on with a team-building activity. Mike Darfler tasked the students with building the tallest tower of plastic cups using only four strings and a rubber band—no hands allowed. With one minute to scrape a plan together and five minutes to build, the students collaborated with a competitive spirit. Building the tallest tower of plastic cups under a time crunch without touching them was no easy task. Amidst a flurry of false starts and tumbling cups, the students used their wit and creativity to come up with out-of-the-box solutions to build their towers. “I think their willingness to try new things…helped them to come up with more solutions to the problem,” says Darfler. “They were working as a team to come up with solutions that were different every time.” After completing three rounds of tower building—the last of which was a sudden-death race to the top—it was finally time to get making.


Fueled by excitement and energy, the students began building a customizable, functional, and durable light box that they would be able to personalize and take home. With just six pieces, assembling the light box seemed simple enough, yet it incorporated different elements of the ‘maker’ culture, such as electronics, digital fabrication, and power tools. Under the tutelage of Max Lawrence in the electronics area, students got their feet wet with basic circuitry. Equipped with the DIY-mentality and armed with copper tape, LEDs, and coin batteries, the students tackled what was, perhaps, one of the hardest tasks of the day—creating an electric circuit from scratch.

On top of learning the knowhow of circuitry, one of the unique things students were able to do at DM+D was add a personal touch to their creations by using a laser cutter to etch their names onto their light boxes. Unlike many traditional fabrication techniques that are designed to produce the exact same thing again and again, the laser cutter can make something different every time.

After students had completed assembling the circuitry and etching their phrases, they headed to DM+D’s power tools shop to get creative and experiment with different sizes of drill bits to make holes for the lights to shine through. Many students enjoyed the drilling process because they had the freedom to be innovative. Instead of just drilling random holes, some students chose to drill their initials, others created intricate constellations of pinholes, and some opted for random abstraction. In that room, there was no such thing as a mistake.

Once all the pieces were ready, students had just about enough time left to assemble their creations. The scramble for brushes and wood glue proved intense as students began hustling and bustling, determined to complete the project that they exhausted their efforts into before running out the door to catch the bus.

Between the tower-building frenzy, troubleshooting some circuitry and drilling, the students had fun and were able to gain some new skills. At the end of the day, the students went home, not just with a light box, but with a newfound creativity and the mindset of a maker. In just two hours, these talented 8th graders used their wit and creativity, worked on problem solving, and demonstrated perseverance and tech proficiency, which were ultimately reflected through their end product. When asked what they thought of the project, a student remarked, “I thought it was a really productive and creative field trip that caught my interest. I learned to keep my mind open to new ideas.”






Meet Samantha Wittchen


APRIL 28, 2015


Samantha Wittchen, or Sam as she is called, is, among many things, a designer, a mechanical engineer, and a professional harpist. Sam first came to  DM+D back in 2013 through Alex Gilliam, the director of Public Workshop.

While working on a project for GRID Magazine, Sam had interviewed Alex, who told her about a new place opening up called the Department of Making + Doing. When Sam went to DM+D’s open house, it turns out that she had been waiting for a space like it to open up. That summer, Sam got more involved with Public Workshop and began helping to build an adventure playground as part of  GreenBuild’s Legacy Project. Sam primarily works with Public Workshop’s Building Heroes on various building projects around the city. When she is not building or designing, she can be found teaching harp at the University of Pennsylvania, teaching an Intro to Sewing class at DM+D or just hanging out around the space working on crazy collaborations with eggbots, harps and openFrameworks.



Max and I have been working on Sammy’s Jammy for Philly Tech Week’s Signature event. We’re trying to hook up the harp to electronics so that the music coming from the harp syncs with the visualizations produced in the computer. I’ve also been working on designing a letter organizer for the Building Heroes Etsy shop and a sleeve for my harp students.


I would say the people there inspire me. It’s cool to be surrounded by others who are interested in working on their own projects. The DM+D community is always so positive about what they’re doing, and I haven’t had that since music school. Everybody at the DM+D inspires me, especially Max because he has the intellectual curiosity and the time to do it. Every time I talk to him, he’s like “Hey check out this new thing that I did.” Alex Gilliam is also a champion to everybody here on what they want to do.

I went to school for a mechanical engineering degree, but I do design work professionally as well.  DM+D allows me to have those two things link together. I knew when I came out of school that I didn’t want to sit in a cubicle and design parts. The nice part about coming to DM+D and working through the Building Heroes is that it enables me to use mechanical engineering and design together.

Not only that, being surrounded by other people who are tinkering, trying things out and not knowing what the outcomes are really helped me. I’m a planner – I like to see how things are going to end, but here things are more fluid. People start projects not knowing what the end product will be, and that helped me to be more comfortable with uncertainty, which is good for my personal growth.


I was really into Ghostbusters when I was a kid, and I remember asking my mom to buy me one of those PKE meters —Psycho Kenetic Energy, for those of you who are wondering— that they have to measure paranormal activity. But Mom said ‘No more toys’, so I made my own PKE meter out of cardboard and I would go around the house and measure the paranormal activities of various things. I used to also make swords a lot and I remember how my mom would help me make it.


I would say that the people who has the most influence on me are the people that I work with on a daily basis. For example, the Building Heroes. I was impressed by Coby Unger because he would have clever ideas to solve everyday problems and he would go and do it. Usually, not everyone can follow through with their ideas. But when Coby has a problem he wants to solve, he goes and work on it.

Other than that, my grandmother taught me how to sew when I was little. She was constantly making things that solved problems instead of buying it. One of the first things I made with her was a pair of shorts. Nylon soccer shorts were popular in middle school at the time, so we decided to make a similar pair instead of buying it. Overall, those people that have that DIY, ‘I’m gonna solve problems by myself’ attitude have the most influence on me.


There are two parts I like. One is brainstorming and the other is that stage where, after you go through the sucky part of brainstorming and you come out the other end of that, everything suddenly makes sense. For instance, the other day I was working on designing something for a theater company that I’m a Chair member of, and I was trying to figure out the connections between the two plays of the season. Usually when I do the materials for the season there was a common thread to link them together, but there was no common thread here. I was at that awful stage of not knowing how the two plays were connected, so I let go a little bit and began sketching. Suddenly, something came to me and I figured out the connection between the two plays. When everything becomes clear, it’s almost like the project tells you what’s going to happen.

Philadelphia Science Festival 2015

APRIL 21, 2015

PSF_2015The 2015 Philadelphia Science Festival marks the fifth year of this citywide collaboration celebrating science and technology in everyday life. With a plethora of events packed in these nine days, budding scientists of all ages will have the opportunity to photograph their DNA, build real robots, and get a little closer to nature.

The Philadelphia Science Festival features many hands-on activities, lectures, and various other informal science experiences to give all Philadelphians a chance to positively engage with and build a community around science, engineering, and technology. DM+D and its partner organizations are participating this year, and below are a series of events you won’t want to miss!


DNA Cell(fie) Station
Sunday, April 26th | 10am to 2 pm | Free

Take your selfie to the next level and create a one-of-a-kind family portrait. Use a digital microscope to photograph and examine your cheek cells, hair follicles, and even your DNA! Walk away with pictures that capture the real you after viewing yourself in a whole new way. Organized by Science Center’s STEAM Initiatives.

Educate to Innovate
For elementary, middle, and high school educators and out-of-school time educators
Thursday, April 3oth | 4 to 6:30 pm | Free

The STEM/STEAM/Maker education movement is gaining traction and has such a strong following throughout the U.S. that the White House has challenged educators to “Educate to Innovate.” Sounds inspiring, but what does that mean for your youth programs? In this workshop, you’ll gain access to the resources you’ll need to shift your teaching programs and set your students up for success. Organized by Science Center’s STEAM Initiatives.


Mess Fest Science Discovery Day
Saturday, April 25th | 10am to 2pm | Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse | $5 suggested donation

Don’t miss this ultra-messy, ooey-gooey, slimy and oozy celebration! Join the Hacktory and other great Philly organizations and shoot off fizzy rockets, make slime to take home, find out why Mentos and Coke combine to create an enormous fountain, and see how far the soap bubble monster will spread.

Robot Build Day
Sunday, April 26th | 10am to 2pm | Free

From wiring LED’s to making conductive dough to learning how 3D printers create solid objects, it’s a day all about what it takes to build a real robot. Come explore the many shapes, sizes, and functions of robots with NextFab as you learn how to make your own!

The Science of Networking
Tuesday, April 28th | 5:30pm to 7:30pm | Quorum | Free, registration required

The knowhow to build a robust professional network is a valuable skill set to have, especially in STEM fields. Don’t miss this showcase of the science behind networking, which illustrates (for both college students and professionals) the how’s and why’s of building a great network. Put your new skills to work during a post-program networking session with industry leaders. Organized by the University City Science Center.

SPEAKERS: Nick Marzano, Young Involved Philadelphia | Matt O’Donnell, University of Pennsylvania | Monet Thomas Anderson, Campus Philly

Notes, Bits & Bytes
Sunday, April 26th | 1 to 4pm | ExCITe Center at Drexel University | Free

Produce music from modular circuit components, dance with a humanoid robot and more as you explore what technology can do at Drexel’s ExCITe Center. Whether you’re a tech n00b or a natural, you’ll have a fantastic technology-filled day!

For more information about Philadelphia Science Festival 2015, as well as a full line-up of events, visit the Philadelphia Science Festival website.


APRIL 14, 2015

Troy Taylor, Building Hero

Last Spring, after several afternoons of watching the Bell sisters toil relentlessly at building rolling hang-out pods at their high school, Science Leadership Academy @ Beeber (SLA-Beeber), Troy Taylor and his friends finally decided they should help out.  Public Workshop’s Alex Gilliam gave them some guidance and told them to figure out what they needed to do to help build.  It was hard, but they got to work, and before long, Gilliam told Troy about The Department of Making +Doing, and Troy started coming to DM+D to take part in the Building Hero Project.

An avid skateboarder, Troy spent a lot of time skating at Public Workshop’s Pop-Up Skate Park project in Camden last summer.  When he was nine, Troy got his first skateboard from Toys ‘R Us, although he didn’t really skate with it—he and his brother found that it was great for rolling around on their stomachs.  When he was twelve, he upgraded to a better skateboard, but it wasn’t until a year later, when he traded in his Xbox 360 to get what he calls his “first real skateboard,” that he started practicing tricks and spent afternoons and weekends skating.

We caught up with Troy in between tricks to find out what keeps him coming back to DM+D.



I want to start making [ear]plugs. Eric, Ryan and I are working on getting a lathe so that we can make plugs for the Building Hero Etsy shop. Besides that, I’ve been working on fabricating desk organizers for the shop. I’ve gotten my Building Hero certification on a number of the tools here at DM+D, but I’m still working on a few of them.


DM+D inspires me because there are always people here to push me. If I say I want to do a project for school, someone will help me with it.  I just had a geometry project, and I said, “Hey, Max, I want to do this,” and he said, “Do you have a model, do you have a Sketch-up, et cetera?” and I said “No,” and he said, “Well, start with that.”  People here are always pushing you to do better because you can do better. The people here who have that mindset are inspiring.


I was ten-ish, and my mom got a shoe rack and told me she needed it made, so I assembled it for her. (My dad wasn’t home at the time.)  Then whenever we needed something new—like a shower caddy or something—I’d be the one to put it together.  I became the person in my house who builds stuff.   Most recently, we got a new living room coffee table and side table, and I put it together.


If there is one person here who’s had the most influence on me, definitely without a doubt it’d be Max Lawrence.  When I first started coming to DM+D, he was always here in the background cracking jokes, and I was like, who is this guy?  He told me a while ago, “You’re me when I was your age if I was black.”  He used to just have fun being a kid…doing things that kids do.  My mom knows that he’ll put me in check if I’m not doing what I should be doing.  He’s kind of a mentor.


Can I tell you my least favorite part?  My least favorite part is thinking I did something really well and having to redo it because it wasn’t good enough.  But my favorite part might be the outcome.  It’s when you worked really really hard on something and had to do it a billion times to get that thing that you’re really proud of.  It’s like mastering a trick in skateboarding, and the feeling is amazing.  That’s how it feels when you create something you’re really proud of.

Troy on skateboard

Odyssey of the Mind

APRIL 7, 2015

Four of the Masterman OM team members

Four of the seven Masterman OM team members (l-r. Shahla Mukhtar, Ellie McKeown, Adam Gizis, Anya Gizis)

It’s Saturday morning at DM+D, and a group of Masterman Middle-Schoolers are working fastidiously on creating a very large Monopoly game board.  That is, they’re working hard in between teasing each other in that particular way that middle-schoolers seem to do almost automatically and begging Mike Darfler, DM+D’s Program Manager, to accompany him upstairs on an errand to the mysterious upper floors of the Science Center.

These enthusiastic middle-schoolers are making final preparations for the Pennsylvania State Finals of Odyssey of the Mind (OM), a team-based competitive educational program that provides students with extra-curricular creative problem solving opportunities through experimentation, original thinking and risk taking.  On February 28th, the Masterman team took first place in the Southeast Regional Tournament to advance to States.  This Saturday, April 11th, they will compete against nine other Pennsylvania teams for a spot in the World Finals to be held at Michigan State University in mid-May.

They’ve spent months preparing for the competition, first coming to Drop In +Do on Thursday nights and then arranging to use the space on Saturday mornings.  Each team that participates in OM has their choice of five problems to solve.  The Masterman team chose a technical problem, the solution to which involved building a series of machines that are powered by rubber bands.

But the devices are just one part of the team’s entry into the competition.  In addition to building the devices, the team was required to construct a storyline around the use of the devices that included a “mysterious engineer character.”  Enter the Monopoly board.

Their story begins at a Monopoly convention where the kids encounter a disguised Mr. Monopoly, whom they accidentally offend.  To teach them a lesson, Mr. Monopoly sucks them into a game board, where they overcome a series of obstacles and complete a series of tasks involving the rubber band-powered mechanical devices, such as a catapult, dice machine and self-driving car.

Team member Adam Gizis demonstrates how the rubber band-poerwedwee

Team member Adam Gizis demonstrates how the rubber band-powered car works.

Over a dozen visits to DM+D, the team of seven students fabricated six different mechanical devices for the competition.  Coach Kristin McKeown, whose daughter, Ellie, is on the team, says that the students transformed from complete novices with hand and power tools to experts.  ”As a parent, to see the kids undergo a transformation from being scared of the tools to being totally comfortable with them is really exciting,” she says.  McKeown recounts an early visit where using the handsaw induced a lot of anxiety.  Ellie’s reaction after they left DM+D that day?  ”Can we go back next Saturday?”

In addition to learning how to use the tools, DM+D has been a lesson in learning what’s possible.  When asked what her favorite part of coming to DM+D is, Ellie responds, “It’s seeing what we could make but in a much cooler version because we had the right tools.”

Shahla Mukhtar, another team member, concurs, “It’s a really good workspace with a lot of tools and really cool technology.  You get a lot done.”

As for sibling team members Anya and Adam Gizis’ favorite part?  They’re in complete agreement—the snacks.

Who knows?  It might just be those snacks that help them bring home the state championship this Saturday!  Best of luck, Team Masterman!  We’ll be rooting for you!

Using the table saw  OM team member using the nail gun

Masterman OM team members practicing

Masterman OM team members practicing

Philly Tech Week 2015 Preview

MARCH 31, 2015

Pendulum painterPhilly Tech Week 2015 is fast approaching, and with it comes myriad events focused on showcasing Philly’s vibrant tech scene and the people and organizations working to keep it that way.  For the uninitiated, Philly Tech Week represents a great opportunity to sample what Philly’s tech community has to offer and find out what’s happening in our own backyard.

Philly Tech Week begins April 17th and presents a jam-packed eight days of events that draws tens of thousands of participants from all over the region.  DM+D and several partner organizations are participating this year, and below we present of a round-up events that you won’t want to miss.  Get the skinny, and come say hi!


Arcade @ Dilworth
Friday, April 17th | 6 to 9 p.m. | Dilworth Plaza

Come visit DM+D, The Hacktory, NextFab, and other great Philadelphia maker spaces at the “Maker Corner” on Dilworth Plaza. Make art and explore math with a giant 8’ spirograph and get messy with a pendulum painter. Free and family friendly.

Philly Tech Week Signature Event
Friday, April 24th | 7:30 to 10 p.m. | Comcast Lobby

Cocktail reception meets tech-expo. We’ll be showing off some of the best projects, products and ideas DM+D Partners The Hacktory and Public Workshop have been working on over the past year.


Sunday, April 18th | 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. | Northeast Regional Branch of the Free Library

The Hacktory will be leading activities, such as kaleidoscope making, creating computer art jewelry, and building a banana piano with the Makey Makey. Free and family friendly.


Open House and Demo
Sunday, April 19th | 12 to 3 p.m. | NextFab

Come visit NextFab for an extended tour and demonstration of the modern fabrication capabilities available to NextFab members. The laser department, electronics department, woodshop and others will have demos ready to show visitors what can be made with access to these machines, education on how to use them, and a touch of creativity.

Stories from the Trenches
Tuesday, April 21st | 6 to 8 p.m. | NextFab

Gather for an evening of networking and discussion as we hear from two local hardware-based startups and a member of Ben Franklin Technology Partners about the process of raising capital for a product. There will be networking opportunities before and after the talks.

For more information about Philly Tech Week 2015, as well as a full line-up of events, visit the Philly Tech Week website.

Family Fun with Light-up Felt Monsters

MARCH 17, 2015

LED felt monster

Last month DM+D launched Family Fun Day, a monthly series of family-friendly events led by The Hacktory’s Kids’ Club facilitators Allison Frick and Eric Manganaro.  The event attracted about fifteen attendees to create and battle robots made from toothbrushes and simple motors.  This month’s event on Saturday, March 21st, will be focused on creating ferociously adorable light-up felt monsters, and like last month’s event, it’s open to elementary school-aged kids and their adults.

Frick says there will be precut monster shapes and accessories so that kids can focus on the circuitry and not worry about cutting the component out incorrectly.  They’ll sew using conductive thread, which is similar to the thread used in gloves with fingertips that allow you to use your smartphone.  Each monster will connect up to two little battery packs several LEDs.

“The number one goal is to get one light that lights up,” says Frick. “After that they can do other stuff with it, like make the lights blink.”  The kids will focus on the circuitry while they’re at the event, but they’re encouraged to embellish their monsters after they’ve created a working circuit or at home.

LED in felt monster

This is the fourth time Frick has led this workshop, and she says that these events at DM+D attract parents who are excited about doing science with their children, so the adults are really engaged.

One of the things that excites Frick about this event in particular is that this is a project that parents may not necessarily try at home. “If you had the buy the parts on your own, it can end up being a little expensive and overwhelming,” laments Frick.

To make one–or one hundred–monsters still requires a spool of conductive thread, and that can run about $40 alone.

Another benefit of the event is that there will be lots of individualized instruction from both Frick and Manganaro, which lightens the load for parents.

“It may seem overwhelming to take this on by themselves,” says Frick, “but if parents can bring their kids with them to where there are teachers, it makes it less scary and encourages parents to try something new.”

Click here to register for family fun with light-up felt monsters this Saturday.

Felt monster 2   Felt monster 1


Felt monster in progress

The Hacktory’s ‘Unknown Territory’ Artist-in-Residency Videos


KC Shoot


March 10, 2015

In May 2014 The Hacktory launched their inaugural Unknown Territory Artist-In-Residency program. For six months, local emerging artists were given an opportunity to learn and explore at the edges of technology and art, literally in uncharted territory, to create new experiences and new possibilities with code, hardware, and creative expression. Artists transformed their practice through training and mentorship culminating in an exhibition of their work. Check out the trailer for the exhibition below, as well as the individual Artist-In-Residencies individual video made by Aidan Un.

The Hacktory Residency (trailer) from aidan un on Vimeo.

Maximillian Lawrence


Jacob Rivkin


Tara Webb


Michael Kiley


Meet Eric Manganaro

MARCH 10, 2015

Eric Manganaro On Friday afternoons, DM+D hosts Kids’ Club, The Hacktory’s weekly after-school program that lets 3rd to 5th graders explore simple machines, build robots, fabricate musical instruments and otherwise do cool stuff.  Fearlessly leading that program, along with Allison Frick, is Eric Manganaro.

Eric came to DM+D by way of NextFab, which had previously occupied the DM+D space before moving to its current space on Washington Avenue.  Eric was interning with an inventor, and they worked out of a small workshop in the inventor’s home and ran a group together making Tesla coils.  Having toured NextFab with the inventor, Eric took a membership after his internship ended so that he would still have access to the kind of tools had been using in the home workshop.

So when NextFab moved and DM+D took over the space, Eric was naturally interested in what was happening here.  The Hacktory was looking for a co-teacher for Kids’ Club, and Eric jumped at the chance.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s having more fun–the kids or Eric.

When he’s not dreaming up awesome projects for Kids’ Club, you might also find him playing guitar, bass guitar, flute or composing computer music.  His indie pop R&B crossover band (yes, really!) has an EP due out in the Spring.  We caught up with Eric to talk LED hula hoops, solar panels and language.



I am starting a toy company, iSpinToys. We’re developing a set of poi—it’s basically an illuminated weight on the end of a string.  They’re used for swinging in a variety of rhythmic patterns. That’s where I get to use a lot of my skills. It combines 3-D modeling with casting and circuit design.

In addition to running the toy company, I fix a lot of LED hoops.  A new LED hoop can run hundreds of dollars, so I fix them for people instead. At DM+D, I’m teaching a class on building your own LED hoop. It’s basically a soldering class that’s disguised as a hoop-making class.

I’m also currently working on a Jeffersonian polygraph for the American Philosophical Society.  It’s a device that Thomas Jefferson used for duplicating manuscripts.  His pen would be attached to another pen by a series of mechanical linkages, and as he would write, it would create a duplicate copy.  The APS is going to use the one I’m building in an upcoming exhibit.


The people there inspire me, and the degree of freedom I have is inspiring.

There are a lot of bright people that come into the space to work on things and learn, and that’s really inspiring.  Because of the position that I’m in, I have freedom to control the curriculum of Kids’ Club without an institution to direct me–it’s really just the attention spans of the kids that guide me.

If you’re prone to being inspired by that kind of environment, it’s a great place to be. The fact that DM+D is able to keep itself a place that’s open to all kinds of people and presents a learning environment that isn’t intimidating to them is also inspiring to me.


Where I grew up in NJ was close to Edmund Scientific. They just do optics now, but they used to sell educational scientific experiments. They’d also sell loose motors and broken solar panel parts. One of the first things I remember doing was putting together solar panels from broken solar panel parts. I used to use them to power my little projects that incorporated motors and switches.


Neil Gershenfeld, who teaches a class called “How to Make Almost Anything” at MIT, runs a center there called the Center for Bits and Atoms, and I was intrigued by the beginning of the concept of being able to unleash your creativity because you’re surrounded by tools in the right configurations with the right people. He also started the fabrication lab (or Fab Lab) movement as an alternative form of industrial education.

Richard Feynman is someone else I really like.  He’d do this mental exercise where you’d have to explain an object or an idea to him, but you’d have to eliminate context-specific jargon. When you do that, it forces you to explain something in common language that might take a little longer but ultimately makes it clearer. You start losing boundaries between those who understand the jargon and those who don’t.


The part that I value is failure. I value it in a way that makes me really anxious and that has a really long build up to a dopamine release when I finally succeed.  It’s using the failure to realize where I’m coming from and to be honest about the project. I like to be able to allow the process to take over. I have an idea of what a project means going into it, but as I remind myself of the physical limitations of the project, it lends itself to the next step. I guess my favorite part of the process is allowing the project to tell me what to do next.

Eric at Kids Club

Eric shows a Kids’ Club attendee how to cut a pomegranate.

Eric - cigar box guitar

Eric helps kids build a cigar box guitar.

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