Made @ The Tech

Spring 2015

Staff spotlight
Prinda Wanakule,
Educational Programs Manager

From flying fruitcakes to DIY music boxes, The Tech offers fascinating programs to guests young and old. And there’s one staff member who has a hand in it all.

Prinda Wanakule joined The Tech in 2013 as educational programs manager, overseeing The Tech Studio and workshops. These types of hands-on opportunities were once special-occasion offerings, but Prinda has helped expand the programs to be part of the daily guest experience.

Her favorite workshops include those in which participants learn about circuits, such as Hack Your Notebook or DIY Ugly Holiday Sweater.

“I love it when visitors complete circuits — when their lights light up, their eyes light up,” said Prinda, whose team of seven educators and designers experimented with steel-laced thread and conductive tape to customize sweaters and notebooks with lights. “I love to get creative and manipulate materials you wouldn’t normally think to use.”

Prinda earned a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, and her father is an engineer. But she said she often invokes the creative flair of her mother, a chef and artist who specialized in carving fruits and vegetables.

When considering careers, Prinda found the academic world of engineering a little slow and too structured, but for her The Tech is a perfect blend of “learn, fix, try.”

“What I really like is the whole mindset of what you can learn when you just dive in,” Prinda said. “We love prototyping and live by ‘fail early, fail often.’ I tell visitors to just try it out and learn from it. Not succeeding on the first try is often a more rewarding experience.”

In a recent “cookie-catcher” activity, visitors used recycled materials to build a device that could pick up 3D-printed gingerbread people. When guests took the arguably easy route of creating a chopsticks-like contraption, Prinda’s team added rules to make the task a little more difficult. The next set of devices had visitors thinking of even more possibilities.

“There are so many different ways to succeed,” Prinda said. “We want people to think about things in a new way and improve their designs.”

The Tech Studio has undergone a renovation that will allow for greater participation in these activities. At the same time, Prinda’s team is shifting away from disposable materials like cardboard and tape to more sustainable and flexible pieces that can be used for multiple workshops. There will also be open-ended programs offered daily.

“People can come in and create items that are personal and important to them,” Prinda said. “That’s really what The Tech is all about. It’s why I’m here!”