All kids love making things (even if, sometimes, it’s only a mess). But with the rise of the Maker movement, things have progressed far beyond pipe cleaners and paper towel rolls. With new techie tools available like 3D printers, laser cutters, and circuit-boards for the very tiny, anyone can be a budding designer, engineer and scientist. But everyone needs a little guidance first. We’ve rounded up some of NYC’s favorite and newest Maker spaces, featuring programs for preschoolers through high-schoolers, and sometimes, even parents!
Skill Mill NYC photo: via Skill Mill NYC Facebook page
When You Can’t Decide Where You Want To Go
Dazzling Discoveries/Skill Mill
It’s a two-fer on the Upper West Side! Neighborhood favorite, Dazzling Discoveries, which has been offering children as young as six the chance to become engineers and makers by combining recyclables with construction materials, batteries, lights and motors, recently opened a second site, Skill Mill NYC, just a few blocks away. And what does Skill Mill NYC have that Dazzling Discoveries doesn’t? How about a 3-D printer and a laser cutter, guaranteeing that anything your child can visualize, they can also bring to life!
Best Part: At Dazzling Discoveries, classes are for children 12 and under, while Skill Mill NYC accommodates the high school and beyond set. It’s a MakerSpace for the entire family!
Cost: $35-$60 per class (rolling admission)
971 Columbus Ave.
Upper West Side
Skill Mill NYC
949 Amsterdam Ave.
Upper West Side
photo: via Brooklyn Robot Foundry Facebook page
Brooklyn Robot Foundry
Think a two-fer on the Upper West Side is cool? How about an NYC three-fer? Brooklyn Robot Foundry started in Brooklyn (clearly), then expanded to Manhattan’s Tribeca, and, this past year, established an outpost on the Upper East Side. Tiny Builders ages 2-4 can get a head start on their engineering careers (along with a caregiver), while elementary schoolers build their own arcades, bumper cars, speed racers and even crawling bugs.Take note!: The BRF just announced it will be opening a South Park Slope location at Fifth Ave and 16th Street, with exact date TBD — but summer camp will be held there for sure.
Best Part: Family Robot Building Clubs are available, as are exclusive engineering clubs for girls only.
Cost: Varies depending on length and number of classes, also requires materials fee
1595 2nd Ave.
Upper East Side
72 Warren St.
303 3rd Ave.
586 Fifth Ave. (Opening soon!)
347-762-6840 (all locations)
photo: via Launch Math + Science Centers Facebook page
Launch Math + Science Centers
Kids with the inclination to design and build can sink their skills into the center’s “I wanna be…An Engineer!” program. The Pre-K and K offerings find young ones creating mechanical puppets and electric marble mazes, while older kids explore fundamentals of architecture and design.
Best Part: Launch is serious about summer science. It offers camps in — count ’em — five locations: uptown, downtown, east side and west side.
Cost: Varies by class and program
NY Public Library
Don’t believe that you need to shell out the big bucks in order to introduce your little guys to the maker (mind) space. One Manhattan and two Bronx public libraries offer free after-school innovation labs for students in grades 6-8 where you can learn to create digital music, build a robot and more.
Best Part: Did we mention that it was free?
George Bruce Library
518 West 125th St.
West Farms Library
2085 Honeywell Ave.
Westchester Square Library
2521 Glebe Ave.
The Best of the East
Sci-Tech Kids STEAM Maker Lab
You knew them as a pop up place at various schools around the city but, in 2016, Sci-Tech kids moved into its permanent home on the Upper East Side. Here, 18-month-olds are discoverers, and preschoolers ages 3-5 become explorers who experiment with energy and magnetism, and build basic robots. There are also after-school classes for older children ready to design bridges and solar communities, as well as crack the riddle of renewable energy.
Best Part: Sci-Tech maker kids have won prizes from Disney and been invited to the White House!
Cost: Starting at $160 for 4 sessions
215 East 81 St.
Upper East Side
Before you can make something, you’ve got to Tinker, and Zaniac offers an entire class in tinkering. It’s hands on electrical engineering, starting with an Intro to Circuits for Kindergarten though 6th graders, and an intro to micro-controllers for middle-schoolers. Then, once kids have been properly introduced, they move onto simple machines and LEGOs that can be programmed to do tricks!
Best Part: Kids can work their way up, class by class, to a Certificate of Mastery in Engineering
Cost: Contact Zaniac UES
261 East 78th St.
Upper East Side
photo: via Geek Forest Facebook page
In the rush to make sure every NYC child is a STEM expert by their 5th birthday, some MakerSpaces have forgotten that it’s possible to make without technology, too. Not Geek Forest! At this Brooklyn spot, family workshops include fashioning sling-shots, painting, building with jelly beans, and making elephant toothpaste explode! But, fear not, there are also after-school classes that include 3-D modeling, littleBits construction, robotics and a Tynker club!
Best Part: Free family workshops on the weekends!
Cost: Contact program (10% discount available for enrolling in multiple sessions)
329 Grand St.
Classes, workshops and clubs, this spot has it all! Anyone from 10 to 100 can sign up to combine circuits and jewelry, while moms and kids join forces for special Do It Yourself projects ranging from flashlight barrettes to your very own bat-signal! You can try a one-off, or sign up for an eight-week middle-school/high-school Inventor’s Club. Round up 8 to 10 friends, and you can customize your experience. Develop tech toys, digital crafts, or focus on electronics, all culminating with an in-house, interactive exhibit. Inventor’s Clubs are open to all kids, but there is also a designated Girls Make STEAM Program for ages 10-13 in the summertime.
Best Part: You put the group together, you get to decide what you make!
Cost: Email for details (no phone number available)
131 8th St.
photo: via Beam Center’s Facebook page
Afterschool, Summer Camp, and School Break Camps are all on the schedule. Kids in grades 5 through 8 can come twice a week for an entire semester to work on design, building and making on their own, as well as for a final, collaborative project for presentation to the entire community. School Break Camps are available for Midwinter and Spring Breaks, while Summer Camp runs from early July through early September and offers a different theme each week, from Tools to Wood, Plastic, Hot Stuff, Fashion and more. And if that’s not enough, there’s also the annual Inventgenuity Festival, where over 600 attendees work on close to 400 projects in cutting edge fields such a bobble-head cloning and kinetically-modified crops.
Best Part: School pick up and post-workshop shuttles available.
Cost: Summer & School Break Camps: $625/week (discounts for multiple weeks); Afterschool: $1600/semester (tuition assistance available)
60 Sackett St.
photo: New York Hall of Science Facebook page
Maker Kings of Queens
Maker Space at NY Hall of Science
The family that tinkers together, stays together (if only because they’re now soldered). NYSci’s weekend workshops are drop-in, free, and messy. Each individual event has its own theme, ranging from digital paper cutting, to woodworking to plaster-casting. Loved your introduction? You can download free project guides to continue working at home.
Cost: Free with museum admission
Best Part: Being inside of a museum gives kids plenty of inspiration to jump-start their own making.
47-01 111th St.
photo: via Staten Island Maker Space Facebook page
No Maker Is an Island
Staten Island MakerSpace
A mostly adult facility, Staten Island MakerSpace does host an annual summer program for students in grades 6-12 that includes lots of real-word application of engineering, design, electronics and building. Past projects included an auto watering garden system, a wind generator, and a T-shirt you silk-screen yourself. All material is provided, and campers can choose from a morning session, an afternoon session, and all day camp.
Best Part: Staten Island MakerSpace will help you put together a portfolio for application to tech high-schools and colleges.
Cost: $275/half-day week, $500 full-day week, members and siblings receive a discount
450 Front St.
Where does your family go to be makers? Tell us in the comments below!
— Alina Adams