ASTC Entreprenurial Extensions Recap

Last weekend at the ASTC conference in San Jose, I helped to organize a panel discussion on entrepreneurial extensions to museum experiences. It was an interesting and provocative conversation that will hopefully inspire more experiments with pop-up spaces, tinkering trucks, vending machines and kits in science centers and museums. 

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We started with a group brainstorming session to think about words describing a "tinkering mindset" and a "entrepreneurial mindset". It was interesting to see a lot of commonalities between the mindsets with the words like creative, driven, risk-taking and innovative appearing on both lists. An interesting thing that we noticed as well, was that entrepreneurial list included some negative connotations like ruthless and opportunistic. These words served as a starting point for a discussion of prototypes and experiments from a variety of museums and science centers. 


For the session we identified case studies to inspire the discussion and here I wanted to share a few of the resources and links to projects that the panel shared during the presentation. 

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For starters, Tricia Edwards from the Lemelson Center at the Smithsonian Spark!Lab shared a model for growing a network of tinkering spaces. They prototypes environments and activities at their home museum and have spread them across the country using a membership and licensing model. 


For the next experiment, Sarah Seiter from the Oakland Museum of CA shared about a citizen science vending machine developed as part of an exhibition. This way of distributing kits and tools was partly inspired by the vending machine developed by Nicole for the Tinkering Studio. One interesting thing that Sarah brought up was the importance and value of having the machine embedded in the exhibit and directly related to the experience. 


Next, Rachel Donegon from Montshire Museum shared about tinkering kits that they are developing as an extension to the museum experience. They used a local cartoonist to draw a guide to make things more comfortable and friendly. There are many considerations to think about how kits can provide a continuation of the experience  outside the environment and facilitation context of the museum floor.  


And Lisa Regalla from the Bay Area Discovery Museum talked about their Try It Truck. A makerspace built in the style of a food truck that can be deployed in a variety of settings. They created an amazing case study about the process of developing the Try It Truck that is a great resource for anyone wanting to do something similar. 

We switched gears a bit for a presentation by Annalise Phillips who talked about the Innovation Institute at the New York Hall of Science. We think that both a tinkering mindset and an entreprenurial mindset can be modeled by staff and encouraged in learners. At NYSCI, David and Annalise have created a great program that combines making with innovation/entrepreneurship attitudes. 


And finally, Mitch Sava from Museum of Life and Science presented on a more high level overview of how museums and science centers can look for new commercial opportunities and how it takes time to develop these strategies. 


At the end of the session we had a brainstorm about how these ideas might be expanded  by each of the attendees back at their home institutions. We asked people:

  • "what you would like to try"
  • "what challenges do you see" 
  • "what concrete first steps can you take"

It was a great discussion that lasted at many of the tables past the official end of the session. I'm excited that there's lots of energy and good ideas about how to create new entrepreneurial experiments grounded in the goal of extending making/tinkering learning experiences.