OPRF grad has dreams of turning van into 'maker space'

Architect Maya Bird-Murphy wants to retrofit step van for mobile design, construction workshops

July 9th, 2019 2:35 PM

DIY MOBILE: Maya Bird-Murphy wants to purchase a used step van, below left, in order to take the design and construction workshops she facilitates in Oak Park schools on the road. She has an initial goal of raising $10,000. | Courtesy Chicago Mobile Makers

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

An Oak Park and River Forest High School alum is a step closer to her goal of retrofitting a used Workhorse P500 step van into a mobile "maker space," where young people from Chicago and the suburbs can learn all kinds of problem-solving skills in areas like design, construction and architecture. 

Maya Bird-Murphy, 26, said in an interview on Monday that she recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $10,000 — the minimum she believes it will cost to transform a van roughly the size of a UPS delivery truck into a space for conducting more advanced versions of the workshops she currently offers to area students. 

Bird-Murphy is the program coordinator for Architecture Adventure, a program that offers hands-on workshops in construction and design to Oak Park elementary and middle school students. Last year, she started a nonprofit, Chicago Mobile Makers, with the goal of offering the educational workshops in a van and eventually a permanent space. 

"We just connected with a contractor, Formed Space, and they jump-started this idea again," said Bird-Murphy, who works at an architectural firm in Chicago. "We bought the truck in April and I was thinking we wouldn't be able to start, because we didn't have the funds. But Formed Space made the project seem more possible." 

Bird-Murphy said that the retrofitted van will allow her organization to offer more advanced youth workshops. 

"We can start offering levels of classes, like 3-D printing 101, and you'd be able to take classes that get more and more advanced and that allow you to build your skills," she said. "The van will have power tools, a 3-D printer and a laser cutter, and will be run on a generator. It will have everything you need for a project." 

According to the Indiegogo site, Mobile Maker's mission "is to engage and empower youth through making and skill building, train and support future public interest architects, designers, and makers, and to advocate for social, economic, gender and racial diversity in the architecture and broader design fields." 

Bird-Murphy is hosting a construction kick-off party in Chicago's West Loop on Tuesday, July 16, at 5:30 p.m. She'll have the van on display. Anyone who contributes at least $15 to the Indiegogo campaign will get free admission to the kick-off party; otherwise, tickets are $20 at the door. 

To donate to the Indiegogo campaign, visit:


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