Titus Coleman, right, spins a "fidget spinner" he made with his brother Justus Coleman, left, out of K'NEX at Invention Dimension. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)
At Invention Dimension on Albuquerque’s northeast side on Saturday morning, you won’t find a typical classroom lesson being taught.
A group of three small boys sat in a circle around a box of K’NEX building pieces, fitting the pieces together into whatever shapes and structures they pleased.
At a nearby table, 6-year-old Hannah Hansen and her sister Zoey, 3, concentrated on using screwdrivers to take apart a variety of plastic toys, closely examining the interior components of each.
Talulah Dreskin, 10, sat at the same table pulling the keys off an old keyboard, which she said she plans to use to create jewelry.
Invention Dimension is what’s known as a “Makerspace,” a place where people can gather to invent, build, create and play together.
There’s box upon box full of supplies – such as paint, duct tape, sewing materials, old electronics, tools, pieces of found wood – lining its walls.
Owner Laurie Bloyer opened the business in April after starting an afterschool “Maker” program at The International School, where she was a teacher, in September.
“What I was noticing is that kids were problem-solving and they were failing and they were getting over failing by persevering,” Bloyer said of the children who participated. “I’ve quit my job because I believe in this so much.”
Bloyer opened Invention Dimension to the public on Saturday for an open house.
The “Maker Movement” seeks to encourage creativity and teach technical, hands-on skills in an open-ended environment.
Tina Coleman, whose sons, 7-year-old Justus and 6-year-old Titus, were two of the boys playing on the floor with K’NEX, is a former teacher.
She said there’s simply not enough time in the classroom to allow kids to do hands-on work like what happens in a makerspace.
“It’s partially so busy because of preparing for testing,” Coleman said.
She said the collaboration and creativity of making can have a wide variety of positive effects on children, including her own child, Isaac.
“My son, actually, was one that would cry at the first sign of failure,” she said.
Recently, Bloyer said, his teacher has reported he seems less anxious and less afraid of failure.
She said it also improves kids’ attention spans and social skills.
Usually, sessions are two hours long.
Bloyer said she generally starts things off with a brief assignment, such as building a tower “as tall as I am,” or constructing a bridge that can support the weight of a given object.
Then, they’ll work together on a particular project or experiment.
Afterward, they’ll talk about challenges, frustrations and successes they may have encountered along the way.
Prices at Invention Dimension range from $35 for a half-day session to $112 for four enrichment classes for older children.
“I feel like the people of Albuquerque, with our education system, they could really benefit from something like this,” Bloyer said. “Extra enrichment is what I really wanted to bring to New Mexico.”
Makerspaces aren’t just for children, though.
Central New Mexico Community College’s FUSE Makerspace opened in April 2016 and includes less kid-friendly equipment like table saws and laser cutters.
It moved into a much larger location at Innovate ABQ, Central and Broadway, in August of this year.
There’s also Quelab, located on the city’s West Side, that provides work benches, tools, soldering irons and other equipment to be used for creative construction.
Quelab organizes an annual Maker Faire in Albuquerque, which allows makers to display their hobbies, experiments and projects.
This story was first published on September 30, 2017, in the Albuquerque Journal.