CrashWorks STEAM studio & Makerspace opened last month to the delight of children and adults alike. Owners, Ty and Shauna LaRocque, have a space downtown at 724 Indiana Avenue where young and old can create, learn, and enjoy doing something with their hands. “This is a Pintrester’s dream,” Shauna said with a grin.
“In my previous life I am a teacher by trade, so my teacher mind couldn’t just do art stuff,” she explained. “I thought, ‘How can I make this more educational?’ So, what we need is a children’s museum, but I can’t fund that; but I can do something smaller, so this STEAM studio started to kind of grow in my head.” STEAM stands for science, technology, arts and mathematics and Shauna wanted to incorporate all of these disciplines into her business.
Shauna Larocque pitched the idea of a children’s museum to a local nonprofit, and it was “shot down”. But that didn’t stop her. She couldn’t give up the idea, and after visiting an art studio on vacation, where her 7 kids were able to go in and create to their heart’s desire; she decided that Wichita Falls needed something similar. “They just had walls and walls of things. Jars of things that you could create with. You could build a sculpture, or paint, or do what ever you wanted to do. My kids spent all day there, and they thought it was great.”
Her husband, Ty, told her that if she did the leg work, then they would talk about it. “I think he thought I wouldn’t really do the leg work, but I did. So, I spent about a year just researching and taking notes,” she said. She would get an idea, and Ty would remind her that she didn’t have a business plan. However, they were looking at buildings downtown and found a perfect place for the STEAM Studio. After a couple days of prayer, they signed a lease, and started the hard work of building a business.
“I got my business plan from Google and the SBDC at MSU (Small Business Development Center at Midwestern State University). I don’t know how anybody starts a business in Wichita Falls without them. They have been great supporters and a resource and have taught me everything I know about running a business,” she said.
“Our whole model is based on reusable and re-purposed materials. Businesses and people donate their recyclables, and we use them. Scraps from a construction project, tin cans, water bottles, paper slips, scraps of fabric can all be reused and made into fun things.” Shauna said.
“So, when you come in, we have a ‘tech take apart section’ where we have old Ipads, old electronics, and even old vacuum cleaners. You can take it apart and map it and then put it back together to see if it will work. And you can take apart the ones that don’t work and see how they worked, and what the components are like.”
“We have an art section, so you can come in and do anything—if you want to paint, if you want to create sculptures, if you want to be crafty, we have it. Then there is the architectural area where you can build a bridge, or a tin can robot. There is a science bar where kids can do experiments, and we have books on all kinds of experiments. All the supplies are provided for you and someone knowledgeable to help you with it. We have power tools and electronic supplies. If you want to build a robot that colors, you can,” she said with excitement.
They will have a laser cutter and a 3D printer. There will be examples of projects to do as the seasons change. They will have specific camps during the summer and during school breaks, like a Mission to Mars Camp. CrashWorks will also be available to the homeschooling community. They will also have parties and birthday parties where everyone gets to create and take home a project.
“Come experiment and explore and have fun and see what you can make. This is the time to experiment. From personal experience, there is so much I wanted to do as a child and didn’t get to do,” said Ty. “Hopefully this place will spark the next generation to become craftsmen and do things with their hands or know the inner workings of things. When you do this with recycled products and you mess up you just go get another piece of wood or water bottle and try it again. With recycled materials and kids, you don’t have to worry about messing up.”
“I just want them to come in and see what they are capable of. So often you think this is hard, and I don’t want to try it. Even as kids we are perfectionist, and we want to do everything right, and moms don’t want kids to break things and make messes. Come here and do all those things and don’t worry about it,” Shauna said.
They will have family memberships and for those without memberships the price will be $6 a piece to come in and create a project to take home. They encourage parents to work with their children. The kids will also be encouraged and supervised by staff.
Another example of how downtown Wichita Falls is picking up STEAM!