Last week I came across something really awesome on Kickstarter: The Larscraft Maker’s Chest, A Lego and Toy Solution. It immediately attracted my attention, because I live in a house of Lego. I have Lego creations proudly displayed around my house, and the bottoms of my feet are equally scarred between d4’s and Lego pieces. I was all in.
Then I saw something that made this project even cooler. The Maker’s Chest was conceptualized by an eight year old boy! This indeed is a project after my own heart. Part of the reason I homeschool my son is so that we can be more involved with making things and so I can encourage him to make anything his imagination dreams up. I knew I had to catch up with this boy (and his very supportive dad) to learn more about his awesome project as well as his involvement with the Maker Movement.
Lars Gerding was eight years old when he came up with the idea for the Maker’s Chest. He said part of the problem he had while building with Legos was organization. He knew he had a certain piece, but couldn’t find it in his collection. So he started by separating the pieces by color. Of course, after the project was complete, he didn’t want to just dump them back in the bucket, so he knew he needed trays for them. And then he needed a place to keep his trays. So, the idea for the Maker’s Chest was born.
A lot of people come up with ideas. You find a more efficient way to organize your day, or you make a shelf that can hold all your books. Not everyone decides to bring their idea to Kickstarter, or even fully develop their ideas. I asked Lars what made him decide to take his idea public.
“I really want to go to my dad’s college after visiting it, and it is expensive,” he said. “I want to be able to afford it when I'm older and dad says creating new products is a great way to make money.”
And that, really, is a big part of what makes Kickstarter so awesome. Not every project on there is a success, but it is a way makers can share their projects with others and see just how feasible and marketable their ideas are. With the Maker’s Chest currently at $80,000 above the $15,000 goal, clearly this is something people want and find useful.
The Maker’s Chest has six drawers that are UV sealed so they slide easily in and out. There are various dividers in the drawers so people can keep things organized. The top of the Chest opens to provide a space for building that can be closed when its not in use to protect from dust, pets, and little siblings. There is also a display case for mini figures that people can get. When I asked what started the process to design the Maker’s Chest, the answer was, “a sketch on a piece of paper.” And really, that’s the beauty of making things. It all starts with an idea, and then a scribble, a diagram. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t. But nothing compares to seeing the end result of something that started as a spark in your imagination.
This project is not Lars’s first experience as a maker. He’s been busy building things since he was five years old.
“My dad has a shop at home and showed me how to use the tools,” he said. “My science fair project 2 years ago was called ‘What is a Maker,’ where I was showing 3D printing and talked about great makers like Tesla and Edison. I built a Tesla coil with my dad a few weeks ago but it blew up.”
Kids often make for great makers because they are less afraid to take chances than their grown-up counterparts. When kids grow up in an environment where experimentation is encouraged, they often develop to be more confident and are more willing to take a few risks to reach their goals. Sometimes it’s hard for parents to keep up with their super imaginative kids, even when those parents are makers themselves! Christopher Gerding, Lars’s dad, explains.
“Lars has so many thoughts his brain is always turning. He has a lot of ambition, and is a leader among his peers (including those that are older). I am an entrepreneur as well, my wife and I run several businesses which keeps us very busy. We do the best we can to engage his mind with the time we have, but like any parent we could always do better.”
Most parents think they can do better than they are, but seeing the results of Christopher and Lars’s collaboration is inspiring. And they don’t always work together on fun projects. Christopher said that Lars is often by his side, observing business transactions, witnessing the creative process for new projects, and he can see the trials and tribulations of creative projects first hand. He said that his son learned by observing and doing, and he’s always amazed at how much his son picks up on his own. When asked how making things together has impacted their relationship as father and son, they answered, “The best part of it is spending time together!”
The Maker Movement has taken off around the world, and shows no sign of stopping. Now, with a new generation making things, the sky isn’t even the limit, with advances in space technology and other sciences being made by amateurs who just had an idea. But a lot of people ask, “Why?” Why bother making things when you can just run to Wal Mart for something easier? I asked Lars why he thought people should try their hands at making things:
“Because it is fun and can make the world a better place.”
I definitely can’t argue with that. Be sure to check out The Larscraft Maker’s Chest on Kickstarter. There are a few days left to reserve a chest of your own!
Melanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy and science fiction stories where heroes don’t always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. Her work has been published in several magazines, and she was a finalist in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest. Melanie is also a freelance author publicist and publicity/marketing coordinator for both Ragnarok Publications and Mechanical Muse, an independent gaming company. She blogs regularly for GeekMom and The Once and Future Podcast. Her short story “A Whole-Hearted Halfling” is in the anthology Champions of Aetaltis, available now on Amazon. Follow Melanie on Facebook and on Twitter as @MelanieRMeadors.