Education/Outreach Funding Opportunity
So last week I saw a talk from a National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) employee, who was talking about the federal gov’ts major science funding source for K-12 STEM education support. As a non-profit organization we would be eligible for grant money from this source. Last year they gave away over $5 million, with an average grant amount of $35k.
I want to put together an application to fund an education/outreach program for the Makerspace, that would help supplement the educational initiatives that we are currently engaged in, and allow us to organize and participate in more events.
I would propose to use the money in 3 ways:
- to provide equipment and materials for scientific/programming/engineering demos and projects
- to pay makers travel costs and a modest honorarium to participate in events/demos
- to provide financial support for administration and help partially offset the overhead of the Kamloops Makerspace
The program is called PromoScience, and the application deadline for the next round is September 15.
My intention for this program is for our Kamloops Makerspace community to engage with the greater community outside of our physical space. I would like to see our traveling freak show officially funded, and blowing minds all over Kamloops and the surrounding area.
If this idea excites you, please let me know. I want to ensure I have the full support of the group before I even think of starting the process. I have looked at the application, and I am sure that I could write a very worthy proposal for us, but in order to deliver on that proposal it will take the effort of a well coordinated team. It will take administrative support for communicating and scheduling, technical support for researching & developing activities, creative support for delivering those activities in an informative and engaging manner, and most of all it will take physical boots-on-the-ground support for getting out there and doing what we do (but we all know that is the fun part).
In my opinion, this is a way to take what we are already good at, and expand the scope and scale. There will be a great deal of work involved, but I think the potential payoffs are definitely worth it.
If this will help keep the doors open and the lights on I am all for it!
Note: NSERC will not fund 100% of the costs of a proposed activity. NSERC’s contribution is generally up to one-third of a program’s funding. The average grant typically ranges from $15,000 to $25,000 per year.
@Grant-Fraser, that is a very astute observation, and to cut to the point, a major reason I hope to get a solid buy-in here. In terms of the calculation of what constitutes “the program” in question, I believe that many of the activities we already do could fall under the banner of science/technology education/outreach (with a strong focus on practical and applied skills).
Based on this, any volunteer hours that support this cause (directly or indirectly - i.e. admin) could be given a value as in-kind contributions. The same is true for all of the other in-kind contributions/donations that apply. If we decided to formally make hack nights a part of this program, then we could place a value on making our technology, shops and tools available to the public.
Additionally, any funding that the space receives could be included in the calculation, if we decide to roll that up into “the program”. I don’t see why we wouldn’t, as any extra support we receive here would certainly benefit the relationships that we already have in place. Also, applications should include:"
Up to three letters of reference; these are highly recommended, as applications without letters of reference may be at a disadvantage in the competition. Applicants that are specifically targeting an under-represented group are strongly encouraged to include a letter from an organization linked with the under-represented target audience."
So if we could get some letters from educational partners working with say, indigenous youth or youth on the autism spectrum, it would go a long way. Reaching out to these groups to see if they would commit some of their resources as in-kind contributions would also be a great idea.
I feel strongly that we are well within the letter and spirit of the application guidelines with this interpretation, and that we have many things in our favour here. I also would like to stress that in order to feel comfortable applying for and receiving federal government funding, we need to take our admin/documentation game up a level or two. I also feel that this is necessary for the ensured success of the space in general though. We would be adding a significant amount work beyond what we are currently doing now, but compared to what we should be doing anyways, it really isn’t a lot more effort, IMO.
@kile could cleaning/ Maker Mondays count for contributions?
This all sounds fantastic!
I’m all for it.
I put some work in some time ago to building a system for tracking volunteer hours. I’ve been thinking about this lately again, and I’ll bump it further up my list so that we can have some good metrics to add to the application.
Most grants of any sizable amount due require that you have plenty of other resources online so that the recipient doesn’t fall into a state of having all eggs in a single basket to maintain resilience. That’s just part of how that ballgame is played.
Let’s do it…
We had a discussion around this topic in the lounge last night. It seems the grow shelves would be an ideal project to put forward for funding. It meets the requirement for student participation and it needs some sort of feedback mechanism so that the students can share what they’ve learned. Maybe there could be a website/database where the students can log and compare their results.
This doesn’t need to be a complicated idea with multiple projects.
This doesn’t need to be a complicated idea with multiple projects.
I strongly disagree. Having one project with limited scope may seem easier to execute on, but the potential benefits are minuscule compared to building up a comprehensive education platform. In addition, while the administrative burden is lower, this will also mean that the amount of administration we can claim as benefiting the program would be a fraction of the case where we include many more activities.
The grow shelves are one great project that would fit within the program, but if we decided to put that forward as the full grant application I am fairly certain we would not be successful. I think if we take a number of projects such as the grow shelves, illuminame boxes, me arms, etc., etc., etc., the potential for increasing learning outcomes and skills development would be much larger, and therefore would be evaluated more favourably.
It would also be of great benefit to the space to have these projects fleshed out better, with stellar documentation.
If we take any of our projects on the road, and demonstrate them while giving a quick explanation of the technology involved in making them, then all of the sudden EVERYTHING we do could qualify…
@Grant-Fraser, I will agree that this doesn’t need to be a complicated idea. I think really the idea could be summed up as:
“We make cool things with kids (families/schools), and show kids the cool things that we made on our own. The kids either learn something or get excited about tech. The government gives us money.”
However, the need to include multiple projects in different areas will be essential to building a successful program. I would love it if someone took on the grow shelves and made them the best they could be within the program, and other people do the same thing with other projects. I think with this strategy we could really leverage the benefits from this program (to us and to the community at large).
This sounds really exciting. I’ve been developing tutorials for our staff and kids here at Insight focused on the Laser Cutter and now the 3D Printers. Could be a valuable contribution and concrete evidence that children and families are benefiting from the use of the space.
I feel that we create a teaching system we can use it more then just one objective or organization.
Absolutely, sharing and collaboration = better experiences for families.
Okay, so this thread has gone a bit dormant, BUT the good news is that the opportunity is currently still on the table. The bad news is that applications closes on Friday, September 15.
I have decided to put forward a proposal on behalf of the Kamloops Makerspace Society, and have the support of the board on this (in principle - subject to figuring out the details).
The grant is designed for STEM outreach to kids that are below university age (or teacher of this group), and will only fund 1/3rd of a programs costs. We will be asking them to fund a new outreach program for the Makerspace. The program will include some activities we have done before, such as public events and hack nights, with the aim of improving our presence at these events and increasing educational impact, through demos and with kits.
To make up our 2/3rd’s of the program, we will include costs for keeping the building open during hack nights, and for supplying volunteers at events. Additionally, @Nicholas has offered the Makerbus to use at a number of events throughout the year, and this will also be included in our program costs.
With the 1/3rd from NSERC (funding we actually receive) the budget will be split 3 ways (exact split YTBD).
- A lump sum payment to the space because it is our home base and open house location, and the whole program fails without it.
- A payment to @Nicholas, which will go toward operations & improvements to the Makerbus, for the operation of this program.
- A fund that Makers can access to put together demonstration and project kits with STEM learning outcomes. This fund will deal with purchasing supplies/components, and creating instructional materials for the kits. I am not sure about this part yet - but I am considering including in the budget a lump sum cash payment for a Maker to develop a kit as incentive. This would require pre-approval for the project, and certain standards would have to be met for the instructional materials.
Point 3 is where I would like members to get involved here on the forum. If you have an idea for kits, and feel confident you can sell some learning outcomes, then I would like to hear your ideas. (all of this stuff remains property of KM)
Please keep in mind I see two types of “kit” here. Event/location kits that remain property of the makerspace (i.e. 4-6 chemistry glassware sets, and chemicals for a few experiments OR 4-6 soldering stations, and components to build a number of projects), and the second type of kit is the more basic assembly kits that we have experience selling (i.e. a bag of components for a specific project that can be soldered at home, or on location with our help).
Both of these will be useful for Makers that do education, and if we get the documentation dialled in, these will be VERY useful to teachers.
The type of kit that I would like to include in the grant are the more expensive outreach/teaching type gear. These should all be easy to run out of the Makerbus, and also possible to run out of a classroom/outdoor location if someone wants to take the kits in a trunk.
If you want to suggest a budget item for a kit please reply here with the following format:
Chemistry teaching kit
Students can learn basic chemistry principles by performing distillation to separate a mixture of liquids, and extractions such as caffeine from tea/coffee.
4-6 classroom glassware sets (including travel case) $X
basic chemicals for experiment 1 $Y
basic chemicals for experiment 2 $Z
This is not enough info for the grant application, the idea here is to spitball ideas and see if something seems feasible enough to follow up with by actually looking up pricing (which I will do for the glassware sets).
Okay so I will be going HARD at this until it closes next week. I would like to hear some ideas sooner rather than later. If you want to get more involved with the actual grant writing I am doing it on Microsoft Teams. If you are interested in spending some time (a least a few hours over the next week) helping out there, I can set you up with credentials to access it.
If we get any funding from this it will make it easier to access in the future. There are a number of groups promoting Science and Engineering throughout the country that get $25k per year from these guys.
PS. I will throw a couple emails I sent to the Board up here, they contain a lot of info about the project.
Here is an email thread that has some info in it:
Thank you for your responses Grant, and Vaughn.
I was looking for agreement in principle before starting an application, and it looks like we have it. Vaughn, all of the details that you raise, will have to be covered off in the application, which I will ensure receives sign-off from at least two other directors before being sent to NSERC. I will aim to deliver a complete draft of the application to the board by Wednesday, September 13. It is due electronically at 5 PM Friday, I may need a couple people to sign off on the Final Draft day-of (depending on the comments/need for revision).
So far, I have been communicating via email to ensure that everyone receives the information in a timely fashion, which doesn’t currently seem to be happening in Teams. I have started a channel called PromoScience in the Education team (I don’t think there should be any sensitive info for directors eyes only). I have made the Team public, so anyone with an @kamloopsmakerspace.com login can access and contribute to the application.
I will follow up with a forum post as soon as I hear an affirmative from Nick to go ahead. This will be informing members about the application and getting some buy in from them, as well as offering some opportunities to get involved, and contribute specific details to the application. Basically it will be this string of emails, with a pitch that if people want money to buy stuff for the space to do outreach in science and engineering, they can put together a budget for components into the grant application. i.e. Vaughn, maybe you would consider the price to put together kits to teach airbrushing to groups of IDK 6 people? You might be asking, “Airbrushing? I thought you said that this was the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council, funding this?” Okay, you have me there, but if we talk about the physics of why airbrushes work, and behave like they do (which incidentally I have observed Vaughn does a fair bit of when he teaches airbrushing, you can just do it better when you get how the beam of particles you are shooting acts). So if we plan a bit of colour theory, and some physics, we can totally teach airbrushing with a STEM focus. For outreach, a lot of people argue that STEAM is more engaging anyhow.
In order to be successful we will need support letters from at least two strong Makerspace partners. Early next week I plan to contact Caitlin Wolter (from Skeetch school), and someone from Insight. Regarding either one, if they did want to throw out cash somewhere, this could significantly strengthen the grant application. Pitch would be a guaranteed visit or two from KM, with the teaching kits/demos that this application would fund, Makerspace volunteers, and the possibly the Makerbus (depending on the funding level, desired learning outcomes, and availability of the resource). This way if we are successful with the grant the sponsors would help develop our outreach capacity, leverage their funds by getting them matched by NSERC, and would educational programming. We can say that everything is contingent on getting the grant for the donations. If they don’t have access to capital, or desire to do this, then the two partners I mentioned above would still make strong supporters, so I will be requesting a support letter at least.
I am planning on talking to folks at TRU as well. At minimum, I would like to use their educational accounts to order some chemistry demo gear, chemicals, and teaching glassware kits. I would also like to see if they can find some outreach funding to support us, if we agree to promote and attend their family science night, which is their big annual science outreach event.
Okay, thanks again anyone who has read all of the above and is still with us. This will be the last detail oriented email that I will send about this, the discussion is now moving to teams. The last address I have CC’d above is the Teams channel so this email thread should be on record their as well. Nick doesn’t have access to Teams currently, but the board did agree at a meeting that all previous board members were entitled to a KM email if they wanted. So Nick, hit me up if you want one set up.
I will start outlining and preparing the application, but I will not post anything on the forum, or contact sponsors until Nick weighs in.
In terms of using up volunteering hours as a resource, I think this application will just help us increase our presence and impact at events we would attend otherwise. Developing the materials will both be fun, and make it easier for Makers that deliver educational content regularly to do it much more efficiently, whether they are delivering it at a public event, or a private engagement, so we may be taxing the core a bit, your are right. Hopefully we do it in a way where everything comes out better for it, I really think we have the opportunity to do that here.
Thanks again, kile
On Sep 4, 2017, at 5:53 PM, Vaughn Warren email@example.com wrote:
Can this be moved to Teams, as it is a Board decision and requires tracking for subsequent Boards? I added Kiles email above to the agenda, but it should be discussed and tracked in a Teams thread.
Ideally, agenda items will be posted with information that allows the topic to be thought through before hand and discussed efficiently at the Board Meeting.
I am generally in favour of this initiative, but would like to see:
what the total hours of volunteer commitment is for the Makerspace Society
who is envisioned doing them
what the substantive benefit to the Space is
what timeline is proposed for fulfilling our commitment
before I will sign off on it.
We are already at our limit in terms of volunteering (beyond it, actually) and are barely able to field enough people to come through on our rather minimal existing commitments and goals. I would be more comfortable with this once I see us achieving what is already on our plate (actually thanking sponsors, webpage, RFID, a laser that works including rotary tool, properly coordinating shops and studios including the new classroom, programming that puts the shops and studios to work, etc). Finishing our veggies and all that, before committing to more, offsite activity.
On Mon, Sep 4, 2017 at 4:44 PM, Grant Fraser firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
I think you could give it a shot. We have experience with building kits and we are committed to doing public events. This could work to get funding for what we already do.
On Mon, Sep 4, 2017 at 2:16 PM, Kile McKenna email@example.com wrote:
I had mentioned some time ago a potential source of funding from NSERC, the promo science program (http://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/Promoter-Promotion/PromoScience-PromoScience/CallApplication-AppelDemande_eng.asp). Originally I had envisioned developing a comprehensive program, and including the educational activities we are already hosting at the maker space and out of house locations to add to the value of in-kind contributions.
The deadline for applications is in 10 days, and I sensed some hesitation in packaging up all of our activities within this program. I still think we should apply with a small proposal to try and dip our toe into this funding stream. If we are successful, and deliver on the proposal it will go a long way to getting a larger program funded in the future.
How I am currently envisioning the grant would be a pitch to fund some hard goods with the aim of bolstering our outreach capabilities. Our in-kind contribution to the program would be volunteer hours to staff events, volunteer hours to build demos/teaching kits, and use of the maker bus for teaching/demo purposes. The smaller the percentage of the overall budget NSERC funds, the more likely it is to get funded. Also it is easier to budget and track hard goods in terms of a budget. For these reasons I think that this course may be more successful (originally I wanted to pay out members for volunteering at these events, but the pitch needs to be better, backed up by historical data, and we are too short on time to deliver that).
Nick has agreed in principle to use of the bus. I don’t mind being the front person on writing the grant here. I am writing all of you to see that you agree in principle to this as the maker space must be the applicant as we would be applying as a non-profit. The space would get some demos/kits built (which would remain property of the space), and a portion of the budget would be designated for upgrades/improvements/milage for the bus (in return Nick would offer use of the bus as in-kind contribution - a non-profit or social enterprise has not been created around the bus yet). We would have to figure out what this actual split looks like. I am thinking that we pick particular events we have attended in the past such as Family day, Canada day, etc. and promise to appear at a minimum of 6-8 public events of this type throughout the year.
The timeline is very tight on this and I would need to get moving ASAP. Before I invest time here I would like to get the affirmative on support from at least two board members, and that Nick is agreeable to the structure I have laid out here (assuming he has adequate budget input RE the operation costs of the bus).
Thank you all.
Best regards, kile
Hi all. FYI @Nicholas and I met with Gord Stewart from the Big Little Science Centre, and Tom Dickenson (TRU Dean of Sciences) this morning. The strategy for this grant application has taken a fairly radical turn. We will still be applying for funding along the same vein, and offering to deliver the same things, but we will be partnering with BLSC, who will be the primary applicant on the grant.
This is really, really good for us.
It will mean that we can use their financials, track record, and impact as the primary consideration. We will be able to ask for more money as they are a known entity to the granting agency. There will be a fallback plan including volunteer support, so the program as a whole will be guaranteed to succeed if the Makerspace were not able to deliver on its portion of the commitments (i.e. this alleviates the concerns about overtaxing volunteers).
Basically this partnership will act to shore up all of the places where we were are weak in our application, and will virtually eliminate all risk to the Makerspace. There are a bunch of deals to figure out, but this is a very positive development. Tom has agreed to kick in a bunch of stuff from TRU as well, based on the partnership.
Anyhow, very good news. Now I have some work to do…
Hey folks, I have been working on a budget for this program, and part of that is quantifying what we provide on hack nights. Coming up with these numbers I think will be a super-useful exercise for the space around our overall planning, and I would like to engage the shop coordinators. I plan to be at the space tomorrow (Sunday Sept 10) at around 6 or 7 working on the budget, and probably Monday night as well. If I don’t connect with you at these times we should try and follow up later with the building committee.
The costs I need to put forward for tool use and material use will be critical to the budget. Thinking of how we can discretely track or estimate these things will be well worth while for future planning.
Yep - refining the operating and development budgets of each area is time well spent, both in terms of quantifying what the services cost to provide AND what it will theoretically take to see each area reach its own separate potential and do its own part to support the overall success of the Makerspace. It looks like all the pieces are in place - all that is left is polishing and getting settled. Well done.