Ryan Regall, a tech and robotics teacher at MakersXD based in midtown Hacker Lab, was browsing through an old, deprecated email inbox when he saw the name “Disney”.
Regall showed it to the team; they replied immediately.
Eight months later, four teachers from MakersXD and Hacker Lab are first-time cast members on “Shop Class”, a youth maker competition show premiering as a Disney+ Original Series online on Feb. 28.
The teachers are: Brannon Harris, MakersXD’s lead design teacher; Alan Ware, who teaches youth in underserved communities and at Sierra College; Giana Galati, Hacker Lab’s lead jewelry teacher; and Trent Dean, a furniture designer and MakersXD shop teacher.
The show is a competition format where shop teachers design challenges for youth and teach on the fly.
“We were there to guide the kids to complete projects … I never expected to be on TV on that scale,” said Alan Ware. “The crazy thing was the scale of it — I’m gonna be on a show with Disney.”
The four spent time in Southern California for 12-hour shifts, separately, after filming competitive intro reels featuring Hacker Lab and MakersXD. The show runs in 8 episodes leading up to quarter, semi-finals and a finale competition.
MakersXD has led youth education at Hacker Lab since 2013, starting out as a private charter vendor and now serving homeschool and any students with project-based classes uniting technology and creativity for young makers, coders, YouTube stars, game developers and designers.
“You’ve got four people from Hacker Lab and MakersXD on the show. Maybe that means we’re doing something right around here,” Ware added. “That’s a big deal.”
Spreading the word
Initially, Disney representatives were looking for shop teachers affiliated with traditional educational positions — however, Brannan Harris pointed out to them there are few shop classses in the area.
“I said, ‘Check out our website and the lay of the land. There’s no shop classes around,’” Harris said. “They got back to us in four days and said we were the vendors for this class.”
Then, Harris said, they took one look at Dean and Harris and said, ‘We want to get as many people as we know like you;’ so, Harris contacted Ware and Giana Galati.
“They’d each given advice to a student in the shop. We filmed our intros in Hacker Lab for our competitive team intros, so there should be a lot of cool stuff,” Harris said.
Disney also contracted with a couple of other teachers from Northern California — one from Sutter County and another from Placerville, Dean said.
Magic under pressure
Like Harris and Ware, Dean spends much of his hours working with youth, helping them discover ideas, develop new skills and make ideas reality.
“It was incredible to be able to work with students in this pressure cooker,” Dean continued. “The show had these constraints, making it super competitive. It was unique to work with cameras all around you and meet these people in this experience together. It was like summer camp or boot camp,” Dean said.
Giana Galati runs her own jewelry and metal art line, Vivid Venus. Much of her jewelry teaching includes helping students tap into their own design skills. But not under pressure.
“They spread the word and maybe we just have good looking makers,” she laughed. “It was pretty intense, working with kids under that time pressure. It was a serious competition. It’s gonna be nuts — it’s gonna be fun to watch.”
The first episode of ‘Shop Class’ premieres on Feb. 28. Hacker Lab plans to hold a watch party — sign-up for our newsletter to stay in touch for future events.