Pop-Up Tinkering at TI Flea

At the Wonderful Idea Co, we're interested in preparing environments for making and tinkering in a wide variety of settings. Additionally we've been prototyping a few kit ideas that kids and adults can use to continue the experience back home at a kitchen table. With both those goals in mind, last weekend we set up a space at the Treasure Island Flea, a festival with fun crafts, pop-up arcades, food trucks, and all sorts of interesting people.

In the week before the event, we we're a little bit worried since the tent we ordered didn't arrive in time, but we looked at the forecast and with the possibility of rain diminishing, we decided to go for an open air model. Nicole set up a beautiful installation of 'art mice' using a wide variety of tools to go with a sewing kit she'd previously developed. We've also been putting together a 'toy dissection tool kit' that we debuted at the festival. We stacked the kit boxes in the red wagon next to a circuit board activity station featuring many parts from hacked toys.


Andrea joined us as a volunteer facilitator to help us demonstrate the kits and introduce the activity. We noticed that it was quite different to prepare a tinkering workshop without the context of the larger Exploratorium and in a sense I think the whole weekend was practice for us to find different ways to articulate what we were doing and why. 

One thing that we tried to help invite people to join the workshop and kits was use some of the tools included in the kit (screwdriver, scissors, sewing needle and thread) to partially dissect a couple of toys. We placed these up front of the booth to draw people into the activity in a playful way. 

Once people sat down and began working on connecting circuits and making aluminium foil switches, they became really engaged with the explorations, even with everything else going on around them. It was really rewarding to see everyone from two and a half year olds to senior citizens experimenting in the workshop space. 


For the process of creating pop-up workshops and helping other institutions develop environments for tinkering, its always a good idea to look at tried and tested activities in a new light. The TI Flea was a great chance to make adjustments on the fly and gave us lots to reflect on as we continue to develop resources for engaging, collaborative, and deep tinkering experiences.