In May of 2015 I shared a story at TEDx Portland.
It was an incredible and affirming experience. As I was sipping a Stumptown cold brew in the park outside the Keller right after the event I was approached by a woman named Alex who was reaching out to me on behalf of First Tech Credit Union. She said that her team loved the story and wondered if we could all meet and talk.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this small interaction would lead to a very interesting collaboration that would launch a very cool idea. At least I think it’s cool.
I met with the First Tech team over the Summer of 2015 and we shared philosophies and dreams about what education could be. I was unaware until those meetings that part of First Tech’s ethos is to support STEM education in schools. We had lovely conversations, and they encouraged me to reach back out to them if I thought there was a way we could collaborate.
Fall came, and John Peplinski, who was the architect of our technology vision at Raleigh Hills, took a position as Director of Digital Design at the central office. This was a great hire, as John’s mind for systems and his leadership style were exactly what our district needed to further our Future Ready vision. Our community has invested significant amounts of money though a technology bond, and John has already started to scale out his visions across the district. More about the Beaverton Future Ready movement here.
In our school, we were busy implementing a new program called “The Workshop” which is a project funded by our community through last year’s auction that has two elements. The first element engages K-5 students in multiple “making” opportunities to inspire and cultivate divergent thinking, creativity, and perseverance. The second element engages 6-8 students in multiple “mentoring” opportunities to develop leadership, empathy, and collaboration. The workshop was anything we wanted it to be: robotics, 3d printers, electronics prototyping, coding, and more. You can learn more about some of our adventures on other posts in this blog.
The workshop was underway, and Pep and I would occasionally meet for coffee and talk about revolutionary things with RHS alumni parent and fellow revolutionary Vince Radostitz. We are still not exactly sure where the idea came from, but I think it was Vince, who has since officially joined the Future Ready team in Beaverton Schools.
The idea was to make a magic maker bus.
This seemed like a great Vehicle (ahem) to spread the message of “kid made things” – the subject of the talk I gave at TEDx PDX. Could we scale out the excitement of hands-on making experiences to all of our students? Could we use the bus as a mobile tool to further the district’s future ready ambitions in a unique and inspiring way? Could we make school feel less like school?
Inspired (loosely) by other makerbuses and (very loosely) by the great notion of Ken Kesey’s bus Further, we began a conversation to see if we could actually do it. None of us had ever transformed an old school bus into a time machine that would lead us to the better tomorrow of learning. A mobile makerspace where kids could MAKE and TAKE and BREAK. An engine for change and excitement that would light up the city at night and light up kids in the daytime, and vice versa. A STEAM-powered trojan horse to bring shopcraft back inside the gates of the ivory walled city of education. The answer to everything – on wheels.
Maybe we were aiming a little high. A couple of us had never even backed up a trailer. But lack of expertise or even common sense had never stopped us before. Pencils went to paper. I called First Tech.
And the FutureBus was born.