We're hiring!

Thank you for your applications. This position has been filled. If you are interested in gaining experience and being part of our projects, we are always looking for artists and volunteers. Please send an e-mail to Kisha at kisha@brightboxmakerspace.com for more information.

Join us this summer for Maker Camps.

We're looking for a Playful Learning Coordinator to help plan and deliver Maker Camps. 

The Playful Learning Coordinator will be responsible for assisting in the day to day running of our Maker Camps, preparing and delivering educational material to children via Maker Camps and workshops and engaging with community groups, businesses, Sheffield Libraries and our friends to increase access to quality maker education.

What makes this role unique?

This is an opportunity for a qualifying teacher, education specialist or someone with demonstrated interest and expertise in this area to help to design and deliver our Maker Camps and workshops in communities. Our programme is supported by the Institute of Engineering and Technology and Institute of Mechanical Engineers to further access to learning through play. To date, we’ve worked with 1,100+ children and have won awards from the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Soup, Sheffield Business Awards and British Science Week. Our key priority is promoting play followed by promoting future social inclusion and creativity in innovation. This is an opportunity to contribute to and build upon our community programmes.

What will this role involve?

  • Develop and run Maker Education programmes and activities
  • Visit libraries and community spaces to deliver events and workshops
  • Liaise with venue managers, community members, volunteers, parents and children to ensure that presentation material is meaningful and will add value to learning
  • Develop and improve educational resources and display materials and help to organise campaigns, open days and other events including promotions, assisting when necessary with the events themselves
  • Develop and maintain a comprehensive library of materials
  • Maintain best practice and liaise with other education providers
  • Develop and maintain a database of education and training provision evaluations (including feedback from children) and other quality indicators to measure the performance of the Maker Camps and produce statistics when required for the wider evaluation
  • Assist in arranging work experience programmes for school pupils
  • Liaise with managers and assist in developing the education and community strategy to ensure it effectively links with key business priorities and delivers relevant messages to schools and communities
  • Play and try new things!

What are we looking for?

  • A highly motivated self-starter
  • Excellent interpersonal skills, with the ability to communicate verbally and in writing
  • Computer literate and familiar with Microsoft Office and Google Drive
  • A student pursuing a teaching degree or someone with demonstrated interest and expertise in this area
  • The successful candidate will be expected to travel within the Sheffield area on a regular basis, visiting schools and community groups. Driving licence preferred.

Is this the work experience for you?

Send your CV and a brief cover letter to Kisha, kisha@brightboxmakerspace.com

About Bright Box Makespace

The future includes all children. We’re creating a network of makerspaces for children to explore the world through play during drop-in activities, workshops and day camps. Working with us means you’ll be encouraged to play and experiment with new ways of educating and doing business. After all, we’re championing learning through doing.

Bright Box Makerspace is an equal opportunities employer.

Please forward this opportunity on to anyone you think would be a valuable addition to the Bright Box team. Here's a PDF of this job advert.

Children are scary. What if they get hurt?


You all kill me! Children are only scary when they have a cold and sneeze in your eye - yes that's happened to me. Many of you tell me you can't work with children or don't know how to. Barring any restrictions of the law stating you can't work with children, you're probably the best person to work with children. 'Why?' you ask. Cause you'll avoid talking to them and oversharing. This is all tongue in cheek, so hang with me.

Us adults are know-it-alls. We like to strut our knowledge whenever possible - it seems children are the perfect little people to force our opinions and knowledge onto - except this is what we definitely shouldn't do. Your fear of children means you'll be hands-off and let them self-discover.

But Kisha, I love children and want to help them be creative contributing members of society. 

All is not lost, you can still be a world changer by learning to do exactly what we ask of children:

  1. Keep your hands to yourself
  2. Ask questions
  3. Actively Listen
  4. Play

1. Keep your hands to yourself

I watched a person take the safety scissors out of a child's hands and start cutting his rocket out for him. I was enraged. I said nothing and watched while my inner child cried. Let children do it themselves. Unless you see that they are about to impale themselves or someone else, let them make mistakes. Their projects don't need to be perfect or even complete. Children don't see the risks and barriers us adults see. Experience and adult intervention create obstacles for children the next time they give it a go. Sorry for the rant. This experience is still too fresh.

2. Ask questions

This is by far my favourite part of working with children. They always surprise me and come up with the most creative and imaginative answers. When I want to intervene and bestow my knowledge on a little person, I try to form it in a question. I'll ask, "How are you going to attach your puppet to the stick? What can we use?" Instead of saying tape or glue, they create some crazy solutions that I would have never thought of. They're creative brains make fun of the most mundane tasks if you let them run with it!

3. Actively Listen

You asked the question, now listen. That's it. Make 'Ooo' and 'Ahhh' faces to show you're engaged and ask more questions to show your interested. This is the easiest job. Who knows, you may even be able to write a children's book from it.

4. Play

This will get you bonus points. Take on the character the child assigns to you and go with it. Playing with children has been a game changer for me. It's helped me to be more creative and get over those boundaries we gain as adults. Who cares if we act a bit silly, dance and sing? No one. So get out there and play!

The day I learned about university and the people who got me there

There they were. The ladies everyone had been talking about for weeks. They were a dynamic duo and came sporting their dark blue 21st Century Scholars polos and lots of brochures and paperwork. Mom said to me that morning, “KISHA, are you listening! Make sure you bring home the forms from the 21st Century Scholar people. It’s how you’re going to college.”

I clearly wasn’t listening before, but now she had my attention. My friends kept going on about Ball State, no Purdue, no IU. They were talking about majors, minors, bachelors, masters…I’m not sure. It was all a bit confusing. At 13 years old, this was the first time I’d heard these words. That was the week I learned about what happens after high school.

My mom and grandpa always encouraging and supporting. Here we are at the  Wayne County Foundation  awards dinner.

My mom and grandpa always encouraging and supporting. Here we are at the Wayne County Foundation awards dinner.

To say I was freaking out is an understatement. After all the hard work I put into passing math and pleasing my English teacher with meaningful poetry, I was worried all my efforts would lead to a future I didn’t want. Back then it was, ‘If you don’t graduate, you’ll end up at McDonalds. That’s the only place that’ll have you.” (In my best annoyed teacher voice).

Back to the lady in a dark blue polo, she had all the answers. I was scribbling furiously, as if my entire future relied on me understanding every bit of information she said. She was telling me that kids whose families earn below the income threshold get to go to college for free, but only if I take these papers home. Some nice man in a suit knew that without these papers, a girl like me would never have a life any better than her parents’. He knew that, no matter how smart I was or am, my family couldn’t afford to send me to university at $10,000 per year – not including the daily costs of eating and showering. Multiply that by 3, because each of my brothers would need to be supported, too.

So you see, even when I was doing everything right, and trying to make the best future for myself, which according to my teachers was by getting good grades, I needed the support of my community. It wasn’t just the man in a suit that made it possible for me to go to university. It was the ladies in the dark polos, Liz Ferris and Sue Skaggs, who answered all of my questions and took me to visit several universities. They talked me through all my options and learned as much about me as they could.

I made it - thank you,  Rose-Hulman  faculty and staff

I made it - thank you, Rose-Hulman faculty and staff

It's the people who took time to teach me how to raise money and kindly donated, so I could live in DC for 6 months at 16. There are many people who’ve helped me along the way. By trying to name them all, I risk missing out on many. This week, I’m especially grateful to Katherine at SOAR. She took a chance with me. I went to her with a not so clear vision of kids getting hands on and learning through doing. We planned a day where I could set up Bright Box, a creative space for kids to learn through doing, in front of the library in Parson Cross. This Wednesday, I’ll be bringing a kid’s makerspace to Parson Cross Library, paying it forward to the many kids who are like I was at 13, not really knowing what their options are. Wednesday was supposed to be Bright Box’s first event, but because I’ve had the support of the village, we’re going into the day having worked with more than 300 children.

Thank you for believing in me and supporting Bright Box.

Just some of the village supporting me at  Sheffield Soup . Photo by  Chris Bentley

Just some of the village supporting me at Sheffield Soup. Photo by Chris Bentley

How I watched and let kids fail

Imagine seven 7-11-year-olds using drills, hot glue guns and hand saws for the first time. To say I was anxious is an understatement. I was balancing helping them use tools for the first time and encouraging them to get building their designs. When I was helping one kid by holding a heavy piece of wood, I wasn’t watching others using glue guns safely. And when I was helping a child use a drill, I couldn’t make sure little hands weren’t in the path of a saw.

From the beginning, I needed to build trust with the children. I needed to give them the knowledge for using the tools correctly, but also the confidence that they could do it without me watching. It was important for them to be safe under my care, but also, the success of the event relied on the children feeling confident and being able to use tools and build designs on their own when they left my supervision. I wanted them to leave me with the skills and confidence needed to do projects at home.

It would have been easy to tell each child what would work and what wouldn’t. Put simply, some of their designs were impossible to build in a day. Children’s imaginations are vast and they had huge dreams about what they could achieve. Telling them what works and what doesn’t would have made my job a lot easier. I could have had more control over the room, but then, they wouldn't have learned valuable lessons through trying, failing and trying again. I bit my tongue and let them get on with the building. At the end of the day, I want them to feel confident trying new things and know how to move forward from failures.

For 6 hours, I worried about their failed projects ending in tears. I didn’t expect them to have pride in what they built even though they didn’t go to plan. Before their grown-ups whisked them away, we had a show and tell session. Each child was beaming and confident in what they achieved during the day. We had balloon powered canons, marble runs, perpetual motion machines and a magical, techy teleporting device. For the kids, it wasn’t important for their devices to be fully functioning. They wanted toys to fit their imaginative play. They were proud of what they accomplished and I was happy that they all tried using all the tools.

In my next posts, I’ll discuss my interactions with the children. I’ll touch on how I had to consciously refrain from using cautious language that would discourage the kids from trying.

If you’d like your child to attend one of our workshops, here are some of our upcoming events:

Building boats and battling the wind

Photo cred goes to  Tanya , my phone died before any pictures could be taken

Photo cred goes to Tanya, my phone died before any pictures could be taken

A year ago, I went to my local festival and thought, ‘How cool would it be to have a stall here?” Little did I know I’d be bringing my mobile makerspace a year on! I knew at the time I’d be doing something to encourage more girls into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). But you couldn’t have convinced me I’d literally be taking fun and creative activities to communities to give kids a go. I absolutely love taking my mobile makerspace to communities and seeing kids light up like I did 20 years ago when a lady in a white lab coat showed me the magic of science. But invariably, nothing ever goes to plan.

It was a sunny and very windy day in Sheffield. Tents were flying everywhere. One even scraped across the tops of two cars and landed on top of another tent. Ouch. My day was going a bit smoother than theirs. I didn’t have a tent to worry about, but all my props and my beloved sign that I worked so hard on kept escaping. All the play dough dried out, so we had to put the squishy circuits away.

I had the grand idea of getting every kid that visited my stall to make their very own stamp and ‘leave their mark’ on a sheet that I would take with me everywhere. It was supposed to be a fun way to document all the kids I work with over time. I cut a pool noodle into segments for the kids to cut into fun shapes and dip into paint. (If you’re looking to make stamps with kids, I highly recommend doing it this way, rather than with potatoes.)

I also added a ‘Build a Boat’ activity using popsicle sticks, glue and a tub of water – there are a million Pinterest posts on this. After building a boat at home, painting my nails while waiting for the glue to dry and then watching it float in my sink, I was convinced it would work but worried the glue would take too long to dry. The stamp activity would be a good waiting activity. By the time kids cut their stamps and stamped the board, hopefully, their boats would be dry enough to try out. Not one child made a stamp. But plenty of children (and their adults) made floating “thingies.’

I was a bit heartbroken that the kids weren’t interested in making stamps, but I quickly realized how resourceful the kids by using the pool noodle segments as building pieces for their boats. Because I had the stamp and boat materials stored together, the very first kids used the cut-up pool noodle segments as materials to build their boats. They cut slits for the popsicle sticks to slide in. There was no need for the glue! The noodle segments allowed them to make cool and inventive floating structures that they couldn’t have made with just glue.

Overall, the kids enjoyed building their own boats and watching them float in the water and then trying out boats that other kids left behind. No two boats were the same which was interesting. I thought if kids saw others boats that they would mimic them, but sure enough, they built something unique each time.

I’ll definitely be repeating this activity at the Parson Cross STEM Day on 23 August, along with a new balloon painting activity inspired by Princess Diaries :)

Bright Toys wins £855 to get kids excited about STEM

Me setting up before pitching

Me setting up before pitching

*This is the winning pitch I gave on 26.07/2017 at Sheffield Soup*

Twenty years ago, my mind was blown.  A lady in a white lab coat held took a balloon and dipped it into a massive vat of liquid nitrogen. Then she picked up a ruler and tapped it against the balloon. It shattered to a million pieces. I was hooked. I wanted to know how everything worked. Before that day, I thought STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) were for boys. I thought there was no way a girl like me – mixed race and not knowing if I’d get three meals a day, could be an engineer. And here I am today, an engineer who’s had a lot of really cool jobs. And it all started, with a lady in a white lab coat.

I want to be the lady in the lab coat intervening in kids’ lives. I took my makerspace ( a makerspace is a place where kids bring the imagination and I bring the tools, materials and expertise so that they can make their imaginations reality) to 130 kids. Let me set the scene, they were all around me, making stuff and tinkering and getting excited. One little girl reminded me of myself 20 years ago. She was showing me the LEGO woman she created and we got to talking about a school assignment where she had to write about a machine that would make her bed, cook breakfast for her and even walk the dog. So I said, “Oh, you designed a robot.”

She laughed at me and said, “I can’t make robots.”

To which I said, “But oh you did, robots are anything that responds and does stuff for you.” I could see it on her face. In that moment the light bulb turned on for her. She was so excited that she designed something. She then built her robot from LEGO, and suddenly, her robot wasn’t just doing household chores, it was playing football with her – something she’s passionate and excited about.

Girls working together to build a table

Girls working together to build a table

I want to continue being the lady in the white lab coat, changing kids’ perspectives of where they fit in the world, growing their confidence, and opening their minds that they can do anything. Now imagine, a little girl, drill in hand, with a tool belt around her waist building her own robot.

To continue these interventions, what I really need are continued donations of tools and materials, volunteers and for you to spread the word. Tools and materials enable kids to create their magical worlds, allow kids to be creators of tech and not just consumers of it and the support of the community means I can reach more kids :)

If you can help in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you!

Squishy Circuits

Where playdough meets electricity! 

Squishy circuits are a straight forward way to play with science, technology, engineering and art (and math if you let the kids measure out all the ingredients)! It's a whole lot of learning masked by a bunch of fun. Who knew us adults could be so tricky.

You can use store bought playdough to make these squishy circuits, but what's the fun in that when you probably have most of these ingredients lying around the house!

Shopping List:

1/2 cup salt
1 cup plain flour
2 tbsp cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 tbs oil
food dye (keep adding until you reach the desired color)

Get out your saucepan and a spoon for mixing (I use a wooden one). Mix all the ingredients together over low heat until you have a pliable dough. If you're like me, your arm will get a bit sore toward the end but persevere, you're almost there.

That's it! Let your dough cool and then play. When playtime is over, store the dough in a well sealed plastic bag or container and it will last you months!

Okay, but how do we get started???

All you need are some LEDs and a battery pack (I like to use the low power lantern battery with crocodile leads. You can also make your own from LEGO and aluminium). If you're ready for some more experiments, you can add a piezo buzzer to the mix. 

The circuits can be simple or complex. I put together these basic circuits to get you started. Have a play to see what happens with each of the different types of circuits. Now that you know the basics, make something fun!

There are lots of recipes out there for homemade insulating dough, but I prefer non-drying clay for making advanced squishy circuit masterpieces!

Happy Making!