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Inventing the Future: Department of Making + Doing offers testing ground for workshop-based learning

When Evan Malone moved NextFab Studio from the University City Science Center to Washington Avenue in late 2012, he left in place several fabrication tools (including a laser-cutter and 3-D printers) and the last two years of NextFab's lease. To reinvent the space, NextFab and Breadboard, who partner on community outreach and artist residency programs, teamed up with  Public Workshop and The Hacktory. The local organizations are developing a combined headquarters and coworking space for tactile projects and education. The partnership, dubbed the Department of Making + Doing (DMD), opens at 3711 Market Street this month.
 
In addition to the high-tech toolage, the space features a full wood shop and electronic workbenches. Initially it will serve as a homebase and workspace for the four partnering organizations, as well as a location for their outreach and educational programming.
 
As schools continue cutting art and music programs, public spaces for tactile learning become critical. "[The school system] is taking away a whole domain of knowledge," says Breadboard's Dan Schimmel. "Essential to understanding these cerebral, book-taught topics is an innate understanding of the physical world."
 
Currently, DMD serves Public Workshop's Building Hero Project, a community design leadership program for young adults. In the fall, DMD plans to offer afterschool programs at the space -- classes will include kinetic sculpture, basic programming and soft circuits (integrating electronics into fabric and clothes). The Hacktory will also host Hardware Freedom Day on April 20.
 
Eventually, DMD hopes to serve the immediate University City neighborhood by offering a space where community projects, such as green infrastructure, can be imagined and built.
 
"It empowers people to believe they have the tools to solve problems," says Michael Darfler of Public Workshop. "We’re coming to this with the attitude that we’re not just talking about how to solve problems, but actually doing it."

The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.
 
Source: Alex Gilliam and Michael Darfler, Public Workshop; Dan Schimmel, Breadboard; Georgia Gutherie and Daniel Bergey, The Hacktory
Writer: Dana Henry
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