As the 2023 Des Moines Mini Maker Faire is approaching , we took some time to sit down and talk with SCI’s Mena Ramm who is  an incredible maker. She shared with us about the things she loves to make and what inspires her creativity.

Us: What do you do at the Science Center?

Mena: I am the Camps Manager here at the Science Center of Iowa. I love working with young people and there is so much making that happens at camp! It is important to remember that whatever you try to make, it is a journey that takes a lifetime to master. Often we think of kids as being creative, and they definitely are, but it can be incredibly challenging for young people to be asked to be creative on the spot and they often have trouble finishing what they start. When we as makers feel a gap between our taste and our skills we can often become very frustrated, and this can lead to giving up. Being a maker is like working out a muscle, we have to practice all the time, which is why the process is so important. Practice finishing what you start, practice learning new skills, and practice your maker mindset and in time progress always follows.


Us: Wow. It sounds sounds like practice is a really important part of making. How would you define/describe “making”?

Mena: I define making as being engaged with a process that allows me to create something new. For me, making is inextricable from the process that goes into it. The process for me is the most rewarding part. When I am engaged in making something, my mind is quiet and the world drifts away. The time when I am engaged with my making process is often the best time off my day. Making does have it’s challenges, but training my mind and hands to confront these challenges is so rewarding!



Us: I think it is so good to think of making as a process and not just about the final product. What are some of your favorite maker activities?

Mena: I have always been an artist who loved drawing, painting, printmaking, and digital art. I still create drawings in my free time. In the past few years I also been obsessed with fiber arts. My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was young and I have now learned to knit. Knitting has taken over my imagination! I love that meditative process of it and I love having a useful end product! I have knitted many sweaters and it feels like there is always something new learn. I have also started quilting and sewing this year. I do not find it as meditative as other maker activities but that challenge has been really rewarding. When I am engaged in these hobbies I feel very connected to a long line of makers in my family and the world who have passed down so much knowledge.

Making is important because it teaches us! We learn to finish what we start and to confront challenges. We learn how to close the gap between our taste and our skills, and we learn to pass on what we have learned to others!


Us: It so important to recognize how making things and working through the process helps us to grow. Thank you for sharing with us about your passions and your process.

Come see Mena and her incredible knitting skills at the Des Moines Mini Maker Faire on Monday, September 4 from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. Tickets can be purchased at the door. Tickets purchased online receive a $2 discount.

We took some time to sit down with Celeste Moreno, a resident of Boulder, Colorado, to learn about how she got started as a Maker and the roll the Science Center of Iowa played in her journey. Here are her responses:

How would you define/describe “making”?

To me, “making” is a celebration of the skills and practices that shape our lives; mending a ripped pair of pants, building a house, baking cookies, customizing a skateboard. People are creative and inventive and “making” is one way that we express this. It’s a way of solving problems, caretaking, innovating, and creating beauty.  

What are you studying at the University of Colorado in Boulder?

I’m studying the intersection of education, design, and technology at the ATLAS Institute at CU Boulder as a Ph.D. student. My studies and research are focused on how to design creative learning experiences for learners of all ages, particularly in places like museums and libraries. 

What got you interested in this field?

I got interested in designing learning experiences during my undergraduate program at Iowa State University. I was enrolled in a program called Biological and Pre-Medical Illustration and in this program we learned a lot about how to effectively and accurately communicate science using creative methods like animation and illustration. One of my favorite projects that I made was a life-size replica of a wooly mammoth’s foot that was designed to be an educational tool. During this project I realized that I wanted to know more about how people learn, and how creative approaches to education like “making” can support learning. This program, along with my volunteer experience at the Science Center, opened my eyes to how much learning takes place outside of the classroom in spaces like museums, libraries, online, at home, etc. I became interested in understanding what’s special or different about the learning that happens there and I wanted to understand how best to design for learning in these spaces. 

What are some of your favorite maker activities?

One of my favorite maker activities is wind-up toy dissections and remixes. It’s fun and fascinating to take apart wind-up toys and reveal the mechanisms that make the toys work. You’ll find gears, springs, screws, and more hidden inside the plastic shell. When I do this activity, I usually ask people to predict what they think is inside the toy first, then we use small screwdrivers and tools to take apart the toy. After we compare what we thought was inside the toy to what’s really inside of it we make “Frankenstein” wind-up toys. Learners repurpose the mechanisms they dissected and borrow bits and pieces from other toys to create wind-up toys that look funny or move in interesting ways. I love how this activity encourages learners to develop a curiosity about the mechanisms inside of familiar objects, gives them a little bit of experience with small tools, and creates an opportunity to not only take something apart– but to make something new. This activity is a great creativity kick-starter and it’s always a lot of fun. 

Why do you think “making” is important?

“Making” is important for many reasons but here are a couple big ones: I think “making”, at its best, builds on the expertise that all people and communities possess. It lifts up and celebrates existing knowledge and skills as valuable ways of learning about and making sense of the world. Making expands the vocabulary that we have to express our ideas and investigate our questions. It gives us a wider variety of materials and tools to explore and bring our ideas to life with. 

What is your connection to the Science Center of Iowa?

The Science Center of Iowa has always been a part of my life in big and small ways. My mom partially credits her visits to the old Science Center with her grandpa as part of what sparked her interest in science (which was eventually passed on to me). I have lots of memories of visiting both the old and new Science Center with my school classmates and family. During college, I started to volunteer at the Science Center and I loved it so much that I applied to be a “maker-in-residence” and began working at the Science Center in that position after I graduated. I moved on to another job, but eventually made my way back to the science center and worked with the education and exhibits teams for a bit before I moved to Colorado. Now, I’m continuing to collaborate with the Science Center from Colorado and I get to come back from time to time for special occasions like Maker Faire! 


Celeste will be facilitating workshops in the Innovation Lab during the Des Moines Mini Maker Faire on September 5 at the Science Center of Iowa. You can purchase advanced tickets on the SCI Website.


Meet Amenda Tate Corso, an accomplished artist and metal worker. She took some time to chat with us about her approach to making and what inspires her work.

SCI: Can you tell us about what you do?
Amenda: I have been working on a project called the “Manibus Project” for the last year-and-a-half. It utilizes a robotic painting device I created and translates the movement dance and motion into two-dimensional works of art.

SCI: Where does the name “Project Manibus” come from?

Amenda: In Latin, Manibus means “the hand.” I wanted a name that expressed the idea that this project wasn’t replacing the artist by any means. Instead, it acts as an extension of the artist’s hand, or as a new tool that to make or create.

SCI: So it’s a tool that acts on its own, but creates work by an artist?
Amenda: Sort of! It works by using a remote control that senses movement as the input. This allows it to conduct and create the art piece.

I like to think of myself as the overseer or the person that orchestrates the creation of the finished product.

SCI: Where did you get the idea to make a project like this?

Amenda: I had a transformational experience at the ballet, I probably only went to the ballet once before adulthood, and all of the sudden I felt like I was experiencing it in a way that was different from what I perceived it to be. I could see the lines and the shapes. I forgot I was looking at the bodies of the dancers as individual elements, instead I saw them as a whole.

After that, I had a friend that told me about an artist residency program. I really wanted to do something with Ballet Des Moines that was not only inspired by ballet, but directly related to the dancers and what they were doing. In the end, I wanted something that created an impression that was more lasting than just the moment of dance. When you watch a dance recital, you get this emotional high, and then the dance ends, and the moment expires. I wanted it to make something that told the story directly of what was happening in the moment that had a lasting impression. Something that can be analyzed in a different way.

SCI: There’s a huge difference between just taking a video of a ballet recital and displaying it on paper. They give off different types of energy.

Amenda: You can feel the interaction of the energy that was present in that moment. It’s not meant to be an exact reproduction of the movement, but more of a translation of the energy or emotion or the inspiration of it.

SCI: How did you start making?

Amenda: I don’t know if there was a specific time that I can say, “That’s where I got into making,” but I remember something happening as a kid. My parents used to let me use tools, which I thought was fantastic, because some kids don’t get to experience tools until they’re older or there’s a specific need.

I used to take things apart all the time. My dad had a retractable keychain that was broken, and I remember taking it apart to find out what was broken, what happened to it and what made it work, and I fixed it!

There were lots of things like that. For me, it isn’t just about needing to know how things work and why, but more so as an element of expression. I didn’t want to just make something to function. I wanted to make something that does something, tells a story or communicates to us in a way that the everyday world doesn’t.

SCI: What’s your favorite part of the making process?
Amenda: For me, it would have to be seeing the end result. There’s something very satisfying about the process for sure, but I think it’s that point of discovery. Making these works of art are kind of like discoveries, because there isn’t a scripted form. I don’t have a set idea of what it’s going to look like when it’s finished.

SCI: If someone is interested in learning more about making, what would you recommend?

Amenda: Be prepared to fail a lot. Do not be discouraged by making mistakes. I think that a lot of people don’t want to make mistakes, and we all have this fear of making mistakes. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough to make new things. It’s all part of the process. When you embrace that, you’re on your way to surprising yourself!


See Amenda’s project in action at the Des Moines Mini Maker Faire on Monday, September 3! To learn more, visit, and be sure to check our social media channels for exciting news and updates!

Meet Madelaine, one of our resident Makers with a background in education. Madelaine sat down with us to talk about the day in the life of a Maker, what she was surprised about when starting at SCI and her favorite projects for the Summer of Making. This interview was edited to make it more concise and clarified.

SCI: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started at the Science Center?

Madelaine: I graduated from Iowa State with a degree in Elementary Education last December. I subbed and worked in Des Moines Public Schools. I accepted a teaching job for next year, but it doesn’t start until August. I started looking for opportunities this summer to work with kids, but I didn’t want to have to worry about taking control of a classroom. Being a Maker is a great option for that!

SCI: You still get to educate people about making, but you don’t have the pressure of being in charge of a classroom.

Madelaine: Exactly. While I was student teaching, I did a special science program called “Trinect.” It focused on better science instruction in the classroom. Because it was so fresh in my brain, I thought working at the Science Center of Iowa would help me continue to grow.

SCI: What got you interested in the world of making?

Madelaine: When I first applied at the science center, I didn’t have the chance to apply for the Maker position. I was applying to help with the outreach programs, which I thought would be an interesting way to get involved in science and still work with children. In the interview, Ellie ( described the Maker job to me, and because I’ve always been a creative person, I went for it. I love to make things outside of work.

SCI: What types of things have you made?

Madelaine: My mom is a big quilter, so I make a lot of things with fabric. I also led a sewing camp for kids a few summers ago, which is one of the most fun things I’ve done.

SCI:  That’s awesome! Creating things is always a lot of fun. Can you describe the day-to-day life as a Maker?

Madelaine: I start off in the morning by getting my bearings. I see what we have planned for the day. I also get out on the floor and do Tool Time shifts in the Maker Studio early in the day when I get the chance. This lets me interact with curious participants. After that, I start prepping for Studio Time, which means gathering materials, making sure we have examples and seeing if there’s any way we can improve what we did the day before. I sit down for lunch, and then I hop into the Studio Time sessions from 1:00- 3:00 PM. In the afternoon, I spend my time collecting data of how Studio Time went and to see if there’s anything we can improve.

SCI: What do you enjoy most about your job?
Madelaine: Each day is a different adventure. We always get to try and do stuff totally different. It’s not a dull job at all. I get to do some really cool things most people don’t get to do at their jobs. Honestly, it doesn’t feel like work at all!

SCI: People assume you come in and do the same project every day in a week, but in reality, you’re constantly tweaking the process.

Madelaine: Yeah, we did parachutes this week. We had some obvious successes like plastic bags which float down great. On the other hand, fabric doesn’t work so well, so we did some searching for something more aerodynamic, and we found coffee filters! All these little tweaks help it go smoother and smoother each day.

SCI: When you started as a Maker, what surprised you about your job that you didn’t think would happen?

Madelaine: I was very surprised at how flexible the job is in its nature. We have a lot of freedom to take an idea and run with it. For example, the Living Wall we’re putting together (see Sabrina’s interview). We started off with the concept of a living wall, and we didn’t know what that would look like. So we sat down and brainstormed. We threw out some idea until we found one that would work the best.

SCI: What projects are you most looking forward to working on?
Madelaine: We’re working with a camp called “Challenge Accepted,” and I think the idea we came up with is really exciting. We call it an “Instant Challenge.” We put out 3 dice. The first dice tells you the material you have to use, the second one tells you what to build, and the third one tells you the purpose that your creation has to have. For example, you might get something that tells you to build a diaper out of paper plates that makes you laugh, or build a boat out of straws that can dance. I think this will be a lot of fun, and it has a lot of room for creativity.

SCI: That sounds like a lot of fun! How did you come up with that idea?

Madelaine: When I was younger, I participated in this program called “Destination Imagination,” and we did a lot of instant challenges. So that’s probably where I got the idea from.

SCI: If you’re stuck in the middle of a project, and you can’t figure out what to do next, what do you do?

Madelaine: I’m lucky because there are so many people in this office that are full of awesome ideas, so if I’m stuck on something, I’ll usually go ask someone that’s been here a little longer than I have. For everyone else, make sure you have people around to collaborate with. I call myself a social scientist!

SCI: What can you recommend to someone who possibly just went to a Studio Time session and wants to do more?

Madelaine: It’s really important to just get started with something. I think people get stuck on the idea that making is just one thing, but really anyone could be a maker.  You can make with clay, paper, circuits… Making can be so many different things, so really, anyone can be a maker. Just getting started and trying something is the most important part!

The Summer of Making will be going on throughout the summer at the Science Center of Iowa. While you stop by to create, invent and explore, be sure to mark your calendars on Monday, September 3! The Des Moines Mini Maker Faire features dozens of exhibitors, tons of projects, games, food trucks and (most importantly) fun! Click here to learn more about the Des Moines Mini Maker Faire.

Have you ever wondered who comes up with the projects for the Summer of Making? Meet Ellie! She’s From Studio Time to Member Family Workshops, Ellie tells us about how she got started, what she loves about her job and what aspiring Makers can do to get started.

SCI: Can you tell us a little about your role is at the Science Center of Iowa?

Ellie: I do a little bit of a lot of things! I started four summers ago as a Resident Maker, and I’m now the Programs Coordinator. During the school year, I work on the Programs Team and create curriculum plans for the Member Family Workshops and other programming. During the summer, I switch gears and help run the Maker program.

SCI: What got you interested in making in the first place?

Ellie: I think we are all makers at heart. My husband and I always liked to tinker with things. We took some time off work and helped our friends build a letterpress studio, which was a lot of fun. When I eventually saw the job posting from SCI, I jumped on it!

SCI: What is your favorite project you’ve worked on at SCI?

Ellie: I have a blast doing the family night workshops. This last family night, we made rubber band helicopters, which was hilarious. You give people a template for what they’re going to make, and then you let them experiment. People got really creative, and about halfway through, it was raining propellers and rubber bands from the ceiling. It was amazing, and a lot of fun!

SCI: For people who don’t know, what are Member Family Workshops?

Ellie: Member Family Workshops happen the second Friday of every month. It’s a night where we have $5 admission, and we stay open until 8. We have free member workshops that people can register for – you need to be a member to get into it, but it is a free perk of being a member.

SCI: What do you think is your favorite part of your job?

Ellie: Being out on the floor and hanging out with people! I really like seeing kids get creative with the projects we present them with. Sometimes I get surprised with the stuff they come up with.

Studio Time is also really fun. We’ve had some great experimenters, and it’s exciting when we get kids that are comfortable working through the engineering-design cycle, and being okay with a project that doesn’t work perfectly, then tweaking it until it works the way it’s supposed to.

SCI: That’s what makes you a good maker, right?

Ellie: Right! Making happens when you see something that doesn’t work, and you fix it or improve it.

SCI: Can you think of any really creative things you’ve seen in the Maker Studio?
Ellie: There was a kid who came by Studio Time after working at our tool benches. He made a Tyrannosaurus Rex out of wooden blocks, but he built a swinging mechanism into it so his head would move. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that come out of Tool Time before! It’s great how he just took some regular tools and some screws and wood, and created an object with moving parts. I was blown away!

SCI: Are there any projects that you haven’t been able to make work?
Ellie: This is something I have to think pretty hard about. We did a collaborative art project last year that ended up being really challenging, but it was mostly just from a printing perspective and trying to figure out how to get it mounted the way we wanted it to. It ended up working out okay, but it kinda made me want to pull my hair out towards the end. It was a photo mosaic, so we took picture of visitors throughout the summer, and then we uploaded them and had another photo composited on top of it. All the little pictures were tinted in the right way, so when you stepped further way, the mosaic looked like something else. It was time-consuming, but we did finish it in the end!

SCI: How do you come up with your projects?

Ellie: It depends on the project. A lot of times, we’ll get inspiration from things online, but we’ll tweak it so it works with our program. For example, a project for Studio Time will be more open-ended so a 3-year-old and a 53-year-old will both be able to experiment with it. If we’re doing something for the summer camps, we’ll make sure it ties into the theme of the camp and is age-appropriate for our campers. Overall, it’s a mixture of Google-ing, a lot of prototyping and tons of experimenting to make our projects work.

SCI: What do you recommend for people who want to start making?

Ellie: Just start making things! Figure out something you’re interested in, and just try making it and see how it works. If it doesn’t work great you can try experimenting and helping it work better and do it again!

The Summer of Making will be going on throughout the summer at the Science Center of Iowa. While you stop by to create, invent and explore, be sure to save the date on Monday, September 3 to come to our Maker Faire! The Des Moines Mini Maker Faire features dozens of exhibitors, tons of projects, games, food trucks and most importantly, fun! To learn more (or to sign up to be an exhibitor), visit , and be sure to check our social media channels for exciting news and updates!

We sat down with one of our resident Makers, Sabrina Carper. She talked to us about what it’s like to be a Maker, what she’s working on, and what she’s looking forward to the most. This interview was edited to make it more concise and clarified

SCI: Can you tell us a little bit about what you do at the Science Center?

Sabrina: Sure! I am a Maker, which means I get to make fun things. We also organize Studio Time, which takes place from 1:00-3:00 PM on Mondays through Fridays. Every week, we have different activities that all have a science or STEM goal associated with them. For example, this week we’re making “seed bombs,” or “seed bags,” and using those to talk about pollinators and the way plants grow. It’s a fun way to help visitors to the science center make new things and learn about the Maker Movement and help connect it back to science topics they might have learned a bit about in school or at home.

SCI: How do you come up with the experiments?

Sabrina: The head of our team, Ellie, organizes the Studio Time activities. We make sure to prototype all of them before we bring them to the floor, so a lot of my time in the office is spent testing things out to see what does and doesn’t work. This way, when we help participants on the floor make their projects, it’s easier to troubleshoot to make sure everything’s going smoothly.

SCI: What got you interested in making in the first place?

Sabrina: My dad is a maker who has a 3D printer at home, so making has been a part of my life and my household for a while. I started working at SCI because I’m interested in education and have done a lot of work in summer camps and art. I’m a studio arts major, so I’m not really in the education field – I’m just very passionate about it. The “maker” aspect of this job draws everything in like together, so this is perfect for me!

SCI: What do you do with your 3D printer at home?

Sabrina: My dad designs things with it by using a piece of software called “Blender.” It’s a free, open source piece of software you can do 3D modeling in. My dad and I both use it to design board games together for fun. He also makes toys for my little brother, dice for games we have and all sorts of crazy stuff like that. It’s really cool.

SCI: What do you consider the best part of your job?

Sabrina: That’s a hard one. If I had to settle on a few, I’d say Studio Time is the most fun, but it’s also great to talk to visitors and tell people about Make. The act of making the things is also a great part. Prototyping is also a lot of fun, because you’re testing something you’ve never done before. You think to yourself: “This is either going to fail horribly and explode in my face” or “It’s going to work and be super-duper cool!”

SCI: There’s probably a fine line between the two, right?

Sabrina: Yeah! Sometimes you get to the prototyping stage and realize there’s no way this will work, which means you’ll have to go through the test and design process again to make sure you find out what went wrong with it in the beginning. It’s great talking to kids through that process, also, because a lot of times kids get in the mindset of “it didn’t work, that means I should give up.” We get the chance to tell them to stop thinking like that and help them come up with something different and reimagine their project to make it work.

SCI: What are some of your favorite projects you’ve created here?

Sabrina: My favorite project was something we did last year and we’re going to do again this year: finger puppets! It’s a lot of fun because you get to teach kids how to sew, and at least for me, sewing is one of the most basic aspects of making because it’s one of the most basic ways to build things. It’s a lot of fun to watch young kids learn sewing, because it can be intimidating at first. When they realize how simple it can be, you can see it click in their heads and they realize that they’re making something happen, which is very exciting!

It’s also a skill that’s inherently useful. If a button pops off your shirt or you need to stitch up your bag, you’ll know how to do it. It’s a great life skill, and I’m really happy we can teach it to younger kids.

SCI: In addition to the finger puppet project, are there any other future projects you’re especially excited about?

Sabrina: Right now, we’re working on putting together our collaborative art project. We haven’t ironed out all the details yet, but we’re planning on having a plant-related aspect to it. We have these test tubes, and we put water jelly crystals in them. You can grow plants through the crystals, which is called “hydroponic growing.” We want to put them on suction cups and put them on the window. Then, plants will start growing in them, which will let us see the root structure inside them, and we’ll let visitors bring in their own seeds and grow them on the windows in the Makers Studio. It should be really cool! We’re working our best to try to get this done, and we’re pretty excited about it.

            Something else cool is we’ll be able to color the water jelly crystals with food coloring, and make it look like a big mural.

SCI: What are some of the most creative things you’ve seen the visitors do in the Maker Studio?

Sabrina: We’ve seen people build some really cool stuff at Tool Time (which is an area in the Makers Studio where people can experiment with tools and different materials in a safe and controlled environment). A lot of people build really cool bird houses. I’ve even seen a person build a chair for their doll, which was creative. People have also made some cool stuff at Studio Time. One thing we did was something called “light painting,” where you take long-exposure photography while you’re moving glow sticks around. It leaves a streak of light in the photo, and people can move around a person and make lines and shapes by them. We saw someone make their brother a pirate. Someone drew butterfly wings around their friend. It was really cool to see the people working together in groups and making interesting things.

SCI: As a Maker, what can you recommend to people who want to learn more about making?

Sabrina: There’s a lot of resources, especially in the Des Moines area. If you want to dive headfirst into the field, check out Area 515. It’s a makerspace, and they have a lot of space with laser cutters, 3D printers, all sorts of stuff. Drake just opened up another makerspace, which has a lot of similar stuff to ours. Obviously, checking out our Maker Studio is a really great place to start, because we make it really accessible to all people. There’s also a lot of great resources online, like the Make Magazine (, which have a lot of 1-2-3 projects, which is step-by step instructions on how to make something cool. They have a lot of books, articles and all sorts of cool stuff. It’s nice to see the Maker Movement growing, because it makes it a lot more accessible for people.

The Summer of Making will be going on throughout the summer at the Science Center of Iowa. While you stop by to create, invent and explore, be sure to save the date on Monday, September 3 to come to our Maker Faire! The Des Moines Mini Maker Faire features dozens of exhibitors, tons of projects, games, food trucks and most importantly, fun! To learn more (or to sign up to be an exhibitor), visit , and be sure to check our social media channels for exciting news and updates!