Finding Starter Projects: Teacher to Teacher

Maker-Ed-Cafe

Sometimes the best way to get started with making in the classroom is to go make friends outside of it! In that spirit, today’s edition of our series on Finding Starter Projects shares some of the many professional development (PD) opportunities out there available to teachers who want to meet other like-minded teachers — those who know they want to be a part of the Maker movement and bring their kids into it too. We find that when we get a few teachers together, one of the first things they do is compare notes to talk about cool projects they’ve seen and done. Sure, you may also learn a thing or two in these sessions, conferences, camps, meetups, MOOCs, newsletters, and microblogging sites, but we all know that the pursuit of professional development is about reconnecting to allies, exposing yourself to new ideas and people.

Special thanks to Jessica Henricks, Clint Johns, Aaron Vanderwerff, Sherry Hsi, and Stephanie Chang who contributed to this list.


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Conferences

The Maker Education Initiative regularly hosts meetups and runs video sessions, and last May held its first Making Possibilities Workshop at Intel’s Headquarters in Silicon Valley. A full day on the importance of making, its impact on learning, getting started and more, this free-to-attend conference was very thoughtfully put together by Maker Ed and generously supported by one of its founders, Intel. We have heard from our friends at Maker Ed that people have been asking them from all over the country about replicating their model. Some mini Maker Faires have added an Education Day and expanded education content to their programs. (Maker Faire Orlando, we’re looking at you!) Every maker-educator should be sure to go to the minis (or megas) near them, with or without students.

Speaking of this, be sure to put Maker Faire Bay Area and World Maker Faire on your calendar. Our staff, crew, and Makers are all deeply committed to supporting teachers in bringing the Maker movement to their students, and so you’ll find that the schedule is always chock-full of talks relevant to the classroom. It’s a design-it-yourself education conference hidden inside the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth. Our most recent MakerCon, right before World Maker Faire 2014, included a track on education and some of the full-conference sessions were also learning themed. The videos are all available to watch in our archive. We want you there! Sign up for our education community to keep abreast of our news and offers.

While FabLearn sold out weeks before it began, its live-stream promised to archive “as much of this year’s conference as possible.” Stanford’s Paulo Blikstein started this conference out of a related network, FabLab@School, which connects educational digital fabrication labs that put cutting-edge technology for design and construction, such as 3D printers and laser cutters, into the hands of middle and high school students around the world. Take a look, too at Blikstein’s Transformative Learning Technologies Lab (TLTL). It develops low-cost tools, assessments, curriculum, and teacher prep. Europeans will be pleased to hear that Aarhus University hosted a second FabLearn in Europe

Constructing Modern Knowledge holds its eighth “minds-on” summer institute “for educators committed to creativity, collaboration and computing” in July. If you don’t have time to make it to New Hampshire for a week, take a look at the abundant supply of writings and manifestos on its website.

Interaction Design & Children has been running since 2009 to bring together researchers, designers and educators who want to create better interactive experiences for children, with sponsorship from Intel and the Lego Foundation. You can relive the IDC 2014 on its theme of “Building Tomorrow’s Technology – Together” through the archived live stream.

ISKME’s annual Big Ideas Fest “focuses on transformational change in K–20 education.” Aimed at “creative doers and thinkers” I’ll let them speak for themselves here: “The participants are inspirational. The work is dynamic. And the results are revolutionary.” The format includes some unique elements: RapidFire talks and Action Collab design-thinking labs.

Roughly every other year, the Design Science Symposia celebrates the legacy of R. Buckminster Fuller’s “comprehensive anticipatory design science.” Past themes have included Synergetics and Morphology: Explorations into the Shapes of Nature (2007), Design Science: Nature’s Problem Solving Method (2009), Nature, Geometry, and the Symmetry of Space (2011), STEM to STEAM thru Synergy: Bridging Morphology, Biomimicry, Sustainability, and Synergetics (2014).

Enjoy 300 sessions and workshops and more than 700 speakers at SXSWedu in Austin this March. SXSWedu had its roots as a Texas-focused K-12 event three years ago, now it attracts attendees from more than 35 different nations around the globe and includes special features like eduFILM, the Policy Forum, and the Playground (originally Makerspace). Its accompanying free and open-to-the-public Education Expo celebrates lifelong learning in central Texas. Of course there are plenty of teachers who loyally attend the much larger SXSW festival of music, film, and interactive design as well.

The annual Digital Media and Learning Conference focuses on the theme of “Equity by Design” (this June in L.A.). Past conferences have been on the themes of Connecting Practices (2014), Democratic Futures (2013), Beyond Educational Technology (2012), Designing Learning Futures (2011), and Diversifying Participation (2010). Supported by the MacArthur Foundation, the conference is organized by the Digital Media and Learning Hub located at the UC Humanities Research Institute, University of California, Irvine. Go to DML Hub for more info on its other offerings: the Make-to-Learn community, Connected Courses (a free course on creating open college courses), Reclaim Open Learning (a loose network for those developing online learning experiences), Alternative Credentialing (a dynamic public conversation), DML Summer Institute (for grad students and postdocs), working groups, workshops, and more.

You’ve just missed Project Zero Perspectives: Making, Thinking, Understanding, a conference organized by Center for the Advancement and Study of International Education (CASIE) and hosted at Lick-Wilmerding, a wonderful maker-friendly high school in San Francisco. Fortunately, you can review some of its presentations and handouts, posted online. Project Zero will have a related conference Think-Create-Innovate in Atlanta in early May.

scratch-ed-llk

Scratch educators meet up in the Lifelong Kindergarten area of the MIT Media Lab. Courtesy of Michelle Chung.

Scratch has reached well over a million users internationally in part because it has a great community of support, and it is backed up by the founding team’s firm commitment to helping teachers get kids into creative coding through Scratch Ed. If you love Scratch, look for Scratch Educator Meetups on the discussion forums; or take the Creative Computing free online workshop at your own pace; or plan to attend the biennial Scratch@MIT Conference in 2016; or take part in Scratch Day, a worldwide network of gatherings of Scratchers.

One could get lost in the alphabet soup of the large (and even larger) conferences like AAPT, ASEE, CUEISTE, NSTA, NCTM, ITEEA, ASTC, ECSITE, NAEYC, AAAS, AERA, …. need I go on? All have had or are starting to have sessions that touch on the Maker movement and makerspaces. You can even find quite a bit of maker-related education content at more generally technical conferences like IEEE FIESIGCHI, SIGGRAPH, CSCWICLS and CSCL, or just go to one of those to have your mind blown by the future-minded presentations by hungry grad students and pre-tenure profs.

I imagine if I look at Dale Dougherty’s speaking calendar, I could add another 50 great conferences all maker-educators should consider. Tell us which conferences you attend (or dream of attending) by adding to the comments below.


Courses, Workshops, & MOOCs

Make: is proud to support The Startup Classroom’s Maker Certificate Program at Sonoma State University in conjunction with the Sonoma County Office of Education. It features teachers we’ve been working with for years as well as some new friends eager to mentor teachers new to making. Participants gain an understanding of the core values and principles of Making and the pedagogy behind the Maker mindset. The first certificate program of its kind, we’ve been wanting something like this for years!

We’ve been working with Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland for a long while now, so imagine our delight when Lighthouse teacher Aaron Vanderwerff told us that the school’s Creativity Lab would start offering professional development for educators. Sessions vary from the “idealistic to realistic,” including the two-day Designing Making Experiences workshop, tours, space and program planning session, “Learn to Make” skill builders.

Well known for its industrial castoff reuse utopia, RAFT (Resource Area for Teaching) has been a leader in PD in the San Jose area for decades. Check RAFT’s resource page for links to their tip sheets and tailored training sessions, workshops, and summer institutes.

I mentioned Engineering is Elementary in an earlier post, but it is much more than just the curriculum. EIE offers PD too! They host Collaborator Workshops, Everyone Engineers workshops for elementary teachers, the two-day “Linking the E & M in STEM”, and “Engineering Adventures”. They even have PD to turn you into someone who provides PD to your region through their Teacher Educator Institutes. You can attend these workshops on-site in Boston or invite the EIE team to lead one in your school or district.

Nearby, the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach at Tufts (CEEO) improves engineering education kindergarten through college and got a shout-out from one of our teachers.

We’ve already mentioned the projects and resources on the Stanford d.school’s K12 Lab Network site earlier in our series, but you should also know that they hold a DTK12 (Design Think in K-12) Curriculum Summit and workshops in Design Thinking for Educators. I also like the spirit of “Two-Minute PD.”

The DTK12 folks also reminded me of The Nueva School‘s Design Thinking Institute near San Francisco, Henry Ford Learning Institute near Detroit, and FUSE from the Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation held in Atlanta in 2015.

Not too many high schools operate a graduate school of education on the side, but why not teach in the most relevant context to the learning at hand? High Tech High (HTH) offers residencies, institutes, and workshops. They also publish a journal called UnBoxed.

TinkeringCourseraThe Exploratorium has long been a powerhouse of teacher PD, but we’re especially enthusiastic about the online course Tinkering Fundamentals: A Constructionist Approach to STEM Learning. Spend six weeks learning from Mike Petrich, Karen Wilkinson, and Luigi Anzivino, three true masters! Take a look at the Exploratorium’s other PD offerings, especially the Exploratorium Teacher Institute (TI), which has supported middle school and high school math and science teachers for over three decades! In TI’s Re-Engineering Your Science Curriculum, master science teachers Paul Doherty, Julie Yu, and Eric Muller share practical how-tos for infusing curriculum with NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) engineering practices using TI’s trademark hands-on STEM activities. Once you’ve been a part of TI’s Summer Institute, Beginning Teacher Program, or Teacher Leadership Program, you can also benefit from Pinhole, TI’s very informative discussion group. The Exploratorium’s Institute for Inquiry (IFI) trains educators in inquiry-based science: exploring the natural or material world by asking questions, observing, investigating, testing, discussing and debating. IFI’s online PD curriculum covers Fundamentals of Inquiry and Assessing for Learning. Take a gander at IFI’s library of resources too.

The MIT Media Lab’s new Learning over Education (#L_ED) initiative promotes creative learning. Go to its page on Learning Creative Learning to join the next cohort participating in the LCL online course, or start by yourself whenever you like. The six modules cover the intiative’s excellent set of four guiding principles: Projects, Peers, Passion, and Play. The initiative’s Unhangout platform takes an open-source and large-scale approach to online un-conferences such as the annual Edcamp.

Make Summer has had a whole lot of stuff around the topic of Connected Learning that you may find useful, including:

  • Maker Party, through which 130,000 people came together to “make” the web
  • Making Learning Connected a MOOC that ran last year so it may again in summer 2015. Stay tuned.
    • its associated Making Learning Connected G+ community and Twitter feed (@clmooc)
  • Make Bank for “Makes”
    • “Makes could include something you write (a story, poem, play, etc.) or draw (painting, comic, etc.) , a web page or app you create, something you bake, or a social network or connection you form.” (None of this was anything that came from us at Maker Media, in case you are wondering, but nonetheless we like what we see! We’re pretty happy with anything our pals at the National Writing Project do, and this section in particular really has their fingerprints on it.)
  • Make Cycles
  • Make A Case

IISME Fellow Colette Marie McLaughlin spent her summer at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. Courtesy of The Gilroy Patch.

Fellowships

Through the eight-week IISME Summer Fellowship, K-16 teachers of all subjects learn from “high-performance work sites” in science and tech for the summer. They both complete a project for their hosts and spend 10% of their time planning to transfer their experience back to their students and colleagues. How much does it cost? That’s the best part! For participating in this great program, teachers are paid $8,200!

The d.school fellows are “restless experts” who come together to “grow creative and resilient organizations [and] to accelerate systems-level impact in their areas of expertise.” in the fall they focus on learning and leading, winter on leading and doing, and spring on doing. They do this through coursework, workshops, events, studios, and by working through design thinking cycles.

MakerState engages “passionate makers” as MakerState fellows. It kind of sounds more like a job than a fellowship, but the idea is that the fellows serve as part-time instructors and curriculum developers for makerspace workshops around NYC (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Riverdale, Newark, New Haven) and in El Cerrito and Sunnyvale, California. (Side note, they are also hiring Assistant Maker Fellows at the high school level.)


Newsletters, Forums, and Social Media

EdSurge, started in 2011 by Betsy Corcoran, Matt Bowman, Nick Punt and Agustin Vilaseca, scours the world of edtech (education technology) so you don’t have to. It sends detailed weekly reports on the latest news and trends in the industry to entrepreneurs, educators, investors and others. They also host a job board and and event calendar.

Edutopia has provided great public service to the PBL community since 1991. Run by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, it focuses on “innovative, replicable, and evidence-based strategies” especially in these areas: comprehensive assessment (portfolios and other “authen­tic” forms of it), integrated studies, project learning, social and emotional learning, teacher development, and technology integration.

We’ve been fans of the Tinkering School and its offshoot Brightworks for years. Not everyone can come visit them to see these renewably, constantly unique learning environments in action, but luckily their leadership has been generous with documenting and sharing what they do. Check out the Tinkering School’s Blog for educators. I especially appreciate their use of “Plus” and “Delta” for their project reviews (rather than pros and cons), moving creative work and creative teaching onward and upward. There are blog posts on tool training and then just general framing and philosophical reflections. Give the whole thing a read. You won’t regret it!

ASTC (the Association of Science and Technology Centers) hosts a number of Communities of Practice. Many of our colleagues in the museum world participate in Making & Tinkering Spaces in Museums, open to members of ASTC and other Informal Science Education (ISE) partners.

Make to Learn (M2L) hosted by Indiana University  advocates “for placing making, creating, and designing at the core of educational practice.” While many of the projects originally supported by the Digital Media and Learning Hub at the University of California, Irvine and the MacArthur Foundation wrapped up last year. Kylie Peppler and the Creativity Labs at Indiana University, Bloomington continue to lead this effort and maintain a public listserv for educators like you. Send a blank email to maketolearn-l-subscribe@indiana.edu to subscribe.

Here are a few Google+ communities to bookmark:

Twitter hashtags to follow: #makered, #dtk12chat, #stemchat, #PBLchat

Serve up your lingering electronics-related questions on the For Educators forum or on Adam Kemp’s Ask an educator, both on Adafruit.


Other Resources

Many teachers who have told us they are excited to get making in the classroom have also introduced Design Thinking to their students. The Design Thinking Toolkit for Educators will help you get started with d-thinking techniques. This toolkit is the real deal, created by Riverdale Country School in New York City and IDEO, a firm known the world over for its human-centered approach to design.

The Curiosity Kit on Iridescent‘s educator page has some helpful resources. for working with students on engineering design challenges.  And stay tuned! They recently started offering online trainings for educators, and you can email them at curiosity@iridescentlearning.org to schedule one for your site.

Project Zero: Agency by Design is a multiyear research initiative at Project Zero investigating the promises, practices, and pedagogies of maker-centered learning experiences. Its site doesn’t have much in terms of PD yet, but take a look at their excellent set of book reviews.

TED-Ed has many resources, including guides for transforming “any useful educational video, not just TED’s” into a customized lesson around the video. It also has tips for starting a TED-Ed Club with your students.


TWSBA

You can get your feet wet with making, quite literally, at the Teaching With Small Boats Alliance.

Skill Builders

For specific skills, make sure to look for makerspaces for workshops.

In the Oakland area, consider Workshop Weekend which offers 1-3 hour workshops on science, technology, engineering, art, and more.

Down in Santa Cruz, Makers Factory steps up to offer making workshops for teachers.

Many companies have gotten into the game, too. SparkFun runs workshops, always centered around some of their most popular products: the PicoBoard, Digital Sandbox, LilyPad, and Inventor’s Kit for 20–30 students, and they come to you wherever you are in the U.S.

Teacher Clint adds, “I’d also add in courses/workshops at any regional Tech Shop, at The Tech Museum, and at The Crucible in Oakland. There’s also a rise in the number of “unconferences” popping up in the Bay Area.”

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Hackerspaces aplenty, the map at hackerspaces.org

Connect locally! You can find other resources and like-minded makers and educators with the maps and directories below:


What did we miss? Tell us!

Once I got started this list kept growing and growing. There are a few heavy hitters in education technology sphere I decided not to officially list above, excepts as sponsors of other PD programs: LEGOGoogleIntelPBS, to name a few.

Lastly, we’d like to put a special plug out there for seeking out the PD opportunities at the museums near you. Museums are built and run by people who have been learning by making their whole lives and who care deeply about teaching others to do the same. Not to generalize or anything, but museum educators are the absolute experts in project-based learning, tinkering, making, whatever you want to call what we do. Be sure to check out the professional development offerings of all your favorite museums near where you teach.

Check out our earlier posts in this series:

Be sure to check out the growing resource library built by our friends at the Maker Education Initiative.

What’s your favorite resource for making projects? Add to our list by commenting below.


The Deconstruction: An Awesome Un-Competition

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aiT370az1c

The Deconstruction is coming and you can participate. This event, referred to as an un-competition, can be a bit hard to explain at times.

The Deconstruction is a live-streamed global event and game about re-thinking objects and ideas. The goal is to make the world a slightly better (or, at least, slightly more interesting) place over the course of 48 hours.  Participants are challenged to use the resources they have readily available and as little money possible. This un-competition is open to anyone, anywhere, of any age and skill level.

Basically, it is a celebration of ingenuity and creativity, set to take place… everywhere. You set up a live camera wherever you are and stream your team’s entry live as you make it, break it, remix it, or whatever you’re going to do.

The live feeds all flow through the home office of the deconstruction where it is brodcast and curated like a tv broadcast by some interesting and unique hosts.

Last year there were over 50 teams participating from all over the globe. A few of those projects really stood out.

The DRM Chair, a chair that self destructs after a pre set number of uses.

http://vimeo.com/60475086

 

Insanely dangerous propeller powered vehicle

http://vimeo.com/60534109

If you would like to participate in The Deconstruction, you’ve got go get signed up as soon as possible on their site. The actual event begins on November 14th.

While this is an un-competition, there are still some prizes available. The actual items involved with these prizes are still in the process of being determined, but the titles are in place.

-The 2014 Deconstruction Award:  This is the grand prize (the one for the Full Spectrum Laser 3D Printer).  Judging is based on a combination of overall concept,  creative repurposing of objects and ideas, and documentation.  This is the “make the world an awesomer-er place award”

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- The 2014 Deconstruction “ Problem Solving” Award: This award is given to the team who best isolates a real problem and deconstructs a real solution to that problem.   This is the “make the world a better place award”.

-The 2014 Deconstruction “Best in Internets” Award:  This award is given  to the team who produces the most fun and entertaining 48-hour live stream during their build.   Costumes, karaoke, jousting, streaming kitten cam, bring it on. This is the “make the internet a better place award”.

-The 2014 Deconstruction “Young Maker Award”: Given to a team of students who best use teamwork, and collaborative problem solving skills during the 48 hours.


How To Make A Silly String Candy Trap For Halloween

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b9OPJII8oo

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays for one reason. Candy! However by the end of the night, the neighborhood kids have usually picked over my candy bucket. This year I’m going to change that! To keep kids away, I’m going use an Arduino to detect when someone has their hand in the candy bowl, and use a solenoid to shoot silly string at the candy thief. To detect when a hand was in the candy bowl, I used an infrared LED and infrared sensor to create an invisible beam on the opening of the plastic pumpkin.

Pumpkin with IR Beam

When the beam is broken the Arduino will send a command to a power switch tail which in turn makes a solenoid push down on the silly string can.

Silly String Spraying

I mounted the solenoid and silly string to a few pieces of foam board so the solenoid hits the silly string every time.

To allow for easy connection of the solenoid and IR LED and sensor, I mounted a terminal block on a project enclosure. The Arduino and 9V battery sit inside the project box and the terminal block connects to the Arduino through short jumper wires.

terminalblock

 

The Arduino code for this project can be found at my GitHub page


Kid Dresses Up as a Vending Machine and Other Inanimate Objects Every Year for Halloween

vending-machine-costume-1

Redditor MoobyTheGoldenCalf appears to have turned the dynamics of the typical trick-or-treater to candy-giver relationship upside down with this ingenious vending machine costume that he made for his son this year. Although it doesn’t actually dispense snacks, there is something wonderfully poetic about the notion of depositing candy into a walking vending machine!

The front has a plastic/plexiglass sheet so that kids don’t run up to him and steal the chips. The slot on the right is the candy deposit slot, so the candy goes down a chute into the “push” bin section at the bottom. The inside of it has a piece of mirror film on the back of the chip area, so that he can see out, but people can’t see him. And the thing lights up too, which is probably a good idea as it’s just a black box from the back.

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The vending machine costume is not the first time that MoobyTheGoldenCalf made his son a clever costume based on an inanimate object. Last year his son dress up as a fantastically functional mailbox, which also accepted candy deposits!

vending-machine-costume-3

Other costumes from previous years include a traffic light (with a pedestrian crossing candy bucket!), a recycling bin, and a traffic cone. Not only am I seeing a distinct theme of objects controlled by municipal authorities here, I’m also seeing the development of an amazing collaborative relationship in which MoobyTheGoldenCalf gets to exercise a tremendous amount of creative ingenuity in response to his son’s unorthodox requests. I’d say Kudos, but in this case it looks like Cheetos might be more appropriate.

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[via Technabob]


Finding Starter Projects: Deep Dives

Stanley shows off his Arduino project to another curious camper at at the White Plains Library's Maker Camp this summer.

Stanley shows off his Arduino project to another curious camper at at the White Plains Library’s Maker Camp this summer.

In this edition of Finding Starter Projects, we take a look at resources that guide maker leaders in focusing on a single domain, tool, or material. Using these, maker clubs and making classrooms can take a deep dive into one kind of making.

This is another approach to narrowing down The Wide World of Whatever You Want that I mentioned in my last post. An open field can be intimidating to new makers. Establishing a shared focus gently welcomes new makers into this vast landscape. “Deadline-driven design” doesn’t work for all makers. Our teachers with maker clubs and classes have reported that for the girls in particular, competitions can often be a turn-off. Even when there’s no prize in sight, a shared experience is valuable.

maze_r2

MaKey MaKey projects

Working with a common set of tools or materials builds trust and confidence as new makers get used to making together. Another convenient consequence of this approach is that you can focus your spending at the same time that you focus your students. For example, if you buy a few MaKey MaKeys, you could keep you and all your students busily creating the several dozen suggested projects that JoyLabz share on their site.

There are so many great choices, we share today’s links alphabetically.

Arduino. In many ways, the Arduino is a keystone of the Maker movement, and teachers are often looking for good ways to introduce their students to using this powerful microcontroller. We’re happy to report that Arduino’s own materials for getting started are actually quite well done. Also check out the Make: book Getting Started with Arduino by Arduino co-creator Massimo Banzi.

DIYgirls

DIY Girls get clever and crafty with soft circuits during Maker Camp.

Circuits. One of our teachers turned us onto Circuit-Projects.com and DIY Electronics Projects. This is a good time to mention again Make:Projects and Instructables, both full of circuit projects and learning aids. In an earlier post I mentioned High-Low Tech’s projects (especially Getting Hands-On with Soft Circuits). In a future post we’ll look at retail outlets like SparkFun and Adafruit (and MakerShed, of course!) that are perennial favorites with our teachers, full of circuit-building projects.

Green. Let’s get practical! You could spend a whole school year focused on making that revolves around “the four Rs” (reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot), transforming your school into a K12 version of Maker Faire’s Homegrown Village and saving bucks in the budget as you do. The number of educational resources out there are nearly limitless (unlike our natural resources!), but here are a few sites from Maker Media’s neighborhood in Berkeley to get you started: the Green Schools Initiative, StopWaste, California Regional Environmental Education Community, and the Edible Schoolyard Project.

UnihornHelmetlittleBits. This powerful set of reconfigurable modules introduces kids to creating all kinds of circuits. The team has backed their kits up with a set of Project Lessons (including everything from a Tickle Machine to a Unihorn Helmet) and a helpful workshop guide.

MaKey MaKey. We can’t say enough wonderful things about this ingenious interface between the digital and physical world. Part of the magic of this joyful tool is the diverse set of 18 delightful projects its creators and most avid users have dreamed up and described in step-by-step instructions. Club leader Kurt suggests to make sure you have at least two MaKey MaKeys in the room, especially if you have both boys and girls in your maker club, so that everyone gets some time with it.

The Math Projects Journal. One of our teachers has used Princess Dido and the Ox Skin in their making classroom.

NEED: National Energy Education Development. Some of the schools we work with have directed their students to thinking about energy use, production, and conservation in many new ways, often because they use this to find support for their school-based makerspaces and their students’ projects. One resource these teachers consult is the NEED (National Energy Education Development) Project Curriculum Resources. It focuses on projects related to all kinds of energy, like Biomass, Geothermal, and Uranium!

Would-be racers run their Nerdy Derby cars on the test track.

Nerdy Derby. Makers create their own creative, innovative race-car to launch down an undulating, 30-foot track. The folks behind Nerdy Derby have developed a set of lesson plans and different car designs that could keep your class or club happily busy for weeks!

Notebooks and Circuit Stickers. We know kids love stickers, and what better way to get your young artists (and writers) excited about electronics? Check out the templates available at nexmap 21st Century Notebooking (created with the National Writing Project) and on the Chibitronics site.

Scratch. We pointed you to the Scratch site in our list of free software for making. Be sure to also check out ScratchEd‘s resources, including the thorough Creative Computing, a Scratch curriculum guide by Karen Brennan, Christan Balch, and  Michelle Chung

soldercomic_esSoldering is Easy. Mitch Altman has taught tens of thousands to solder around the world. He teamed up with Andie Nordgren to create a one-page cartoon. The cartoon has been translated into French, Czech, Romanian, Portuguese, German, Spanish (see left)Italian, and, mysteriously, Morse Code! Mitch and Andie also worked with Jeff Keyser to make a multi-page comic book on soldering too!

Swap-O-Rama-Rama. Screenprinting, sewing & textile hacking. Pick some material or some clothes from the used clothing pile and then make a costume, sew a dress, hack a blazer into a purse, silkscreen rad designs onto your sweatshirt!; t-shirt appliques with adhesive interface, using sewing machines, bag from a t-shirt, hacked fashion

MF2006_swaporamarama

Thematic explorations. When I visited Brightworks last year, I was impressed by their approach to studying one theme in depth at a time. They call it the Arc. In the past they’ve had Arcs like salt or cities. Now they are pursuing three: photograph, book, and movie.

Thingiverse. Teachers go here to find models their students can hack and print out on your 3D printer.

WikiSeat. Use furniture design to introduce your students to materials and skills of construction, collaboration, and community. Students build their seats atop a Catalyst (the structural support for a chair.) Note that applications for 2015 WikiSeat Scholarship Application are due November 15.


What did we miss? Tell us!

There are so many other project-focus possibilities like this! We know we haven’t captured everything here. Check out our earlier posts in this series:

Be sure to check out the growing resource library built by our friends at the Maker Education Initiative.

What’s your favorite resource for making projects? What have you used with kids? Where do you get inspired, and what projects and sites inspire them? Tell us what you like and why you like it. Add to our list by commenting below.


DIY Witch’s Apothecary Bottles

[UNSET] (1)

These little spooky apothecary bottles are such a clever use of materials! Collect up your old spice tins and empty pill bottles to make these totally rad Halloween props. Just add some hot glue details, paint, cork, moss and bark– and you’ve got instant antique containers. This is definitely a project you can do with the kids. Be sure not to pull bark directly from trees. Only use bark that has fallen off on its own, or even better, the stuff that comes in a bag for landscaping (or your neighbor’s garden).

[UNSET] (2)     [UNSET] (5)

Check out the full how-to over on Magia Mia’s site.

[UNSET] (4)


Flora-Powered TARDIS Dog Costume

Have your Halloween costume ready for this year? How about one for your pet?

Doctor Who fans and dog fans will surely love Adafuit’s Flora-powered TARDIS costume for dogs. With a knit TARDIS sweater for toy dogs purchased on Etsy, a Flora wearable processor and a VS1053 MP3 music player module which plays the sound (found on this site) of the TARDIS from Doctor Who are added in. The project lays flat to make it wearable. A Flora NeoPixel is used for the blinking blue light on the top, and an infrared receiver is added for the ability to mute the sound when wanted, or switch between different audio tracks if set up with more coding.

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To keep all the electronics secure in the outfit, you’ll make a 5 inch square bag that you can sew in or secure with velcro, and to protect the wearer, a small inner bag is sewn in. For a full guide, list of the parts you’ll need, diagrams, and codes, you can visit the Adafruit page.


Finding Starter Projects: Deadline-Driven Design

The Global Cardboard Challenge happens in piles of boxes around the world this Saturday, October 11th. Craft your own arcade!

The Global Cardboard Challenge happens in piles of boxes around the world this Saturday, October 11th. Craft your own arcade!

Some kids discover the Maker movement with their head already full of ideas for projects they want to realize. Other kids need a little nudge, some way to focus on a subset of The Wide World of Whatever You Want. In this edition of Finding Starter Projects, we offer you the focus imposed by an external deadline: a challenge, a contest, or some kind of due date. Sometimes when you can make anything, you end up making nothing at all. We don’t want that! Let’s give our new makers a few clues to get started, some kind of shared focus.

In our last post, we shared sets of projects that have been designed or culled by a single author or institution in order to introduce new makers to a wide range of creative practices, and we’ve also focused on project starters made by Make:, project databases, and free software.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 11.23.52 PMIn Young Makers, we often like to remind our clubs that it’s about exhibition, not competition. Nonetheless, a lot of kids are motivated by being a part of something bigger with a deadline and a lot of pomp and circumstance celebrating the achievements of the participants.Our teachers have found that these work very well to give their new makers a shared vocabulary and camaraderie in their makerspace.

There are too many contests, deadlines, and dates to list here, but we know teachers and young makers who have participated in the following.

  • BotBall: This competition has been praised by our teachers as a lower-bar alternative to more well-known, higher-priced tournaments.
  • BROADCOM Masters: Ben Hylak, a teenager we know who is also fierce advocate for Maker Faire, rode his telepresence robot all the way from his Pennsylvania hometown to the White House Science Fair.
  • Cognizant’s Making the Future design-based scholarship program recognizes originality and creativity in STEM-based projects.
  • Destination Imagination (and its Global Finals) has long shared its whimsical project challenges through Maker Faire.
  • FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) and FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC)FIRST LEGO League (FLL)  and JrFLL: FIRST has long been a powerhouse of robotics education, but joining this program is no easy feat! Be ready for lots of build sessions and even more fundraising. Fans of FIRST confirm that all the extra effort is 100% worth the work.
  • Friday After Thanksgiving (FAT) at MIT is a hilarious, collaborative chain reaction event held annually on the day after, you guessed it, the 4th Thursday of November. Hosted by Makers Arthur Ganson and Jeff Lieberman and witnessed by more than 1,500 people who come from as far away as Michigan and California, participants range “from Girl Scout troops to artists and engineers, from MIT clubs to high schools and family teams.”
  • Global Cardboard Challenge  An annual event inspired by Caine’s Arcade, you can “play” anytime! This weekend: October 11th
  • Google Science Fair: Sure, the competition is steep, but who can resist seeing what amazing, ambitious projects have sprung up from the busy neurons of young scientists and entrepreneurs around the world? We’ve hosted groups of finalists from the competition on Maker Camp, and they are lovely as well as talented!
  • Instructables contests: These get changed up continuously so keep an eye out for one that fits what you are doing, and, let’s face it, contributing to this enormous resource is a skill every Maker should acquire.
  • Intel International Science and Engineering Fair: like the Google Science Fair, this predecessor is chock-full of inspiration and cash prizes if you have a genius on your hands
  • Lemelson-MIT National Collegiate Student Prize honors promising young inventors around the country with recognition and  $10-15K: the majority of team members must be undergraduates.
  • MESAMESA (Mathematics Science Engineering Achievement) hosts national competitions and more local / regional MESA Days elevated 72 winners from a pool of 49,000 largely low-income middle- and high-school students.
  • Mini Maker Faires in your local community are an excellent way to share your students’ work, and they have their own set of quite inflexible deadlines for application and final exhibition. If your students aren’t done in time to show, they can work on their projects on-site at Maker Faire, and/or suffer the mild embarrassment (or intense shame!) of not achieving their project goal.
  • NEED Project’s Annual Youth Awards Program for Energy Achievement recognizes projects
  • National Young Game Inventors Contest (NYGIC) for your kids who love to play and make up their own boardgames  Deadline: October 15th
  • RoboGames: An early staple of the first few Maker Faires, this is a force of its own. The Junior League has medal winners in seven categories: Lego (Bowling, Linefollow, TubePush, and Open), Sumo, Combat, and Best of Show.
  • Rube Goldberg Machine Contest (RGMC) challenges student teams around the world from middle school on up to compete in building the most elaborate and hilarious Rube Goldberg Machine.
  • Science Olympiad: 7,000 teams from all 50 states compete track-meet style in 23 team events that emphasize active, hands-on group participation.
  • SparkLab Invent It! Challenge on ePals: Winners get a patent filed for their invention
  • The Tech Challenge: I appreciate a lot of things about this design contest, but one thing in particular I like is how this challenge is judged. The score emerges not just from the in-the-moment performance of the device the team designs, but also a review of the team’s process and journal.
  • Vex Robotics: Another pricier robotics system, it is quite popular with those who choose this competition over the far more intensely competitive FIRST universe.

Not interested in subjecting your students to the stresses of competition, contests, and deadlines? Even if you don’t participate in these programs, take a look at what these groups are doing. You can also look to the contest rules and winners for inspirational project sparks you can adapt to your club or classroom.


What did we miss? Tell us!

Check out our earlier posts in this series:

Be sure to check out the growing resource library built by our friends at the Maker Education Initiative.

What’s your favorite resource for making projects? Add to our list by commenting below.


Packing for Eclipse Season

LRcoupleview52012

Animation of this week's lunar eclipse. Image by Tomruen via earthsky.org

This week’s eclipse, anim. by Tomruen / earthsky.org

Looking for pointers to protect your pupils before the partial solar eclipse? Read on.

The lunar eclipse Wednesday morning kicks off a series of blood moons, just in time to get in the Halloween spirit. Set your alarm clocks: you have to get up before the crack of dawn to witness this extraterrestrial marvel.

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But then…. when the Moon swings around to the other side of the Earth in a little less than two weeks, most of the United States (and Mexico) get a peek at a partial solar eclipse on Thursday, October 23rd! (Sorry, New England! Looks like you’ll miss it.)

I have such fond memories of the last partial solar eclipse in my region, which peaked as we packed up at the end of Maker Faire Bay Area 2012. The sun snuck behind the moon, and the scene dimmed and was infused with the magic of this rare moment. Through every tiny hole, spooky crescent projections appeared. Thousands of natural apertures made by overlapping leaves created especially delightful shadows, as on the outer walls of Paleotool’s Vardo caravan trailer, pictured below.

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LRgogglesThose final few moments of the event coincided with a partial solar eclipse viewable in San Mateo. Joy of joys, fabulous Maker Club Love & Rockets, far more prepared for this great coincidence of Makers and sunworshippers than I was, handed me a pair of paperboard and plastic solar viewing glasses that I continue to cherish and share with others. Love & Rockets’ Natalie van Valkenberg took a great picture of the eclipse through her pair of glasses, right. You can buy five-packs of these to get your whole neighborhood looking up at the sky with you on October 23rd.

LReclipse52012I pulled these glasses out for the Transit of Venus a short while after Maker Faire, and I brought them to my sons’ preschool so they could see the event too. I figured four-year-olds aren’t so good at holding them without accidentally taking them off and looking at the sun. (Natalie’s daughter, left, knows what she’s doing.)

So, worried that the silly kiddos wouldn’t pay heed to the instructions, I built something of a welding helmet made out of a box and the glasses. I made a hole in a box and taped the glasses inside the box. The kids put the box around their heads. Below, you’ll find a quick step-by-step of my eclipse glasses box, but now that I think about it it would probably work just as well by just attaching them in the middle of a much larger piece of cardboard. Little kids just have such a hard time keeping their fragile eyes covered since those viewing glasses are so small. I’d be eager to see others’ ideas!

eclipsebox-step1  eclipsebox-step2  eclipsebox-step3  eclipsebox-step4  eclipsebox-step5

I also brought along a pair of binoculars to use NOT to look at the sun directly but to use to project an image of the venutian eclipse onto a large white paper (which worked quite well, even if the preschool teacher mistook the image of the sun as Venus itself, rather than understanding the dot was the faraway planet. Sigh. Just think of the kids‘ misconceptions I fostered that day!)

LRwillseclipse52012You can use welding goggles to view an eclipse as long as you are certain they are rated 15 or higher.

But you don’t need to use fancy equipment to play with and witness this beautiful moment. All you need is a tiny hole. Take a piece of opaque board or foil to project the image of the obscured sun, pinhole-style, onto a flat, white surface the right distance away. Forget your hole at home? You can even make a tiny aperture with a curled finger or fist (as Will of Maker Club Love & Rockets showed us, right), or criss-cross your hands to create a matrix of moonshadows, as our friends at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories demonstrated in 2012, below.

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These four sites offer some excellent tips for packing your sun-viewing gear. Click around to start your plan for constructing your tools for seeing this phenomenon (without looking at the sun–so tricky!)

We’ve given you fair warning to build your gear! In exchange for this cosmic courtesy, we ask you to please take photos and video of what you make and how you make it and how it worked so that we can populate Make: with lots of great tips for ecliptical apparati ahead of the next solar eclipses. (I’m “totally” making my plans for a visit to Kentucky/Tennessee in August 2017 right now!)

Add links to your favorite eclipse-viewing tools and your own project write-ups in the comments below.


Finding Starter Projects: Project Sets

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Tel Makers’ Optical Theremin project made during Maker Camp 2014. (Thanks, Cindy!)

Teachers are looking for projects to get their kids into the Maker movement! Today, we share project sets carefully selected by a few of the many groups who care deeply about making. Together, each of these sets take a stab at something of a “curriculum” — or, if that word makes you bristle, then maybe you could think of each of these project sets as just a plain ol’ good introduction to making.

To compile the lists in this series, we asked teachers where they go to get ideas of what to make in the classroom, and they shared with us a few of their favorite resources.

In this edition of Finding Starter Projects, we share sets of projects that have been designed or culled by a single author or institution. While there are many project sets out there, we like that these introduce students to a wide range of making and engineering. In a future post we’ll share project sites that focus on one particular kind of project (such as single-goal contests and challenges.) In the last post we shared databases you could use to search for Instructables, Make It @ Your LibraryHowtosmileOER Commons, RAFT, and Pinterest.

There are so many wonderful choices, today we’re going to share them alphabetically. Any one of these would be a good place to start, but you’ll find that some of the same projects crop up again and again so you’ll want to pick and choose when you sample from multiple sources.


Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 12.08.04 AMCommunity Science Workshops

We have long admired the work of Community Science Workshops, so much so that Make: published the book Tinkering: Kids Learn by Making Stuff by one of CSW’s teachers, Curt Gabrielson, pulling together many of their most successful activities that they have been using in communities all over California over the past few decades. I can still feel the light in my heart when I came across their bus at an early Maker Faire, and they had tables full of kids busily building buzzing bees and flapping birds. Their projects use easily obtained materials for great effect.


curiosity Curiosity Machine

Iridescent created the Curiosity Machine to bring together scientists, engineers, and kids. Their very attractively designed materials are a delight to read. In addition to the challenges, make sure you take a look at their Curiosity Kit, which includes an overview of their take on the engineering design process (inspiration, plan, build, test, redesign, reflect), mentoring tips, a preparation checklist, and a curriculum planning guide. Challenge categories range widely: aerospace, art of science, biomechanics, biomimicry, civil engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, food science, mechanical engineering, neuroscience, ocean engineering, robotics, and satellite systems.


DIY6DIY.org

DIY.org is a site organized around skill-building, with about 115 skills from actor to zoologist. This includes such unusual roles as Darkness Engineer, Yeti, ForagerRadographer, and Tape Ninja. Kids who take on challenges build their skill sets and portfolios while soliciting feedback from their peers and snagging snazzy embroidered patches. The language of the site is open and fun: “When you’re ready to stop getting everything in a bag from the store, you’re a Pioneer. We’re the brave and crazy ones with the skills to provide for ourselves, to make new places, to build our own world.”

I met the folks behind DIY.org as they were getting started a few years back. I was impressed to hear that they weren’t interested in teaming up with any other adults for a while. They weren’t taking funding or any kind of input from others, besides the team of four who founded it. They told me something along the lines of: their priority is listening to the kids, as their primary audience, to start. Partners, grants, investors could all muddy the waters a bit. Now a few years later, this approach clearly has paid off.


EIEEngineering is Elementary

A friend (and former colleague on Makerspace), Joel Rosenberg, worked on a curriculum called Engineering is Elementary. It introduces design challenges only after the teacher first reads a book with a relevant story in a book. Rather than first diving into exploration and tinkering, the kids step back to hear the design constraints of the story (also known as the use case), and only then do they tackle the problem. I really appreciate this approach of giving young makers a narrative into which they can tie their experiences. We live for stories. (And this is part of the reason why we tell stories behind the projects and the makers in our magazine and the blog, so tell us the stories of what your kids make, why, and how.)


Courtesy of The Tinkering Studio

Courtesy of The Tinkering Studio

Exploratorium

The Exploratorium has long been a go-to source for our teachers for its After School Activities and Snacks, decades before the Maker movement came to be. Some even work with their students to build their own versions of the classic exhibits using the three volumes of Exploratorium Cookbooks. Make:‘s closest collaborators within the museum can be found amongst the heaps of inspiration in The Tinkering Studio. The studio shares their projects on its blog and in its beautiful, recent book The Art of Tinkering (read my review of that here.) You can also retrieve older PDFs of PIE ideas — similar work that pre-dates The Tinkering Studio but done by the same creative and conscientious group of people back when they ran the Playful Invention and Exploration Network with the MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten group and others.)


emmeHigh-Low Tech

Speaking of the MIT Media Lab, be sure to check out the set of projects produced in Leah Buechley’s group a few years ago, especially Emily Lovell’s Getting Hands-On with Soft Circuits and the book Sew Electric by Leah Buechley, Kanjun Qiu, and Sonja de Boer.


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Howtoons

Howtoons is a distinct feature of Make:, combining the form of comic books with some friendly how-to and girded up with some solid real-life science and engineering principles. We used them in Maker Camp, and we know lots of teachers find them to be an especially appealing entryway into making for their students, many of whom devour graphic novels and comics. “Challenged to make something ‘other than trouble,’” a brother and sister use everyday objects to invent toys and change the world around them. Read my full review of their recent collection here.


WYEInstructables’ Workshop for Young Engineers

The Workshop for Young Engineers focuses on project-based engineering lessons for kids. This collection of a few dozen project-based lessons focus on basic principles of physics, structural, and mechanical engineering. Your students will build physical models from a shared set of easily found material.


Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 11.26.32 AMK12 Lab Network

Many teachers who have told us they are excited to get making in the classroom have also introduced Design Thinking to their students. The K12 Lab Network is a great place to get started in this endeavor, getting your kids into the process of empathy, definition, ideation, prototyping, and testing. (Make sure you bulk-order some sticky notes before you get started, though, as your room will soon be covered with them!) If you are already very familiar with Design Thinking, Bootcamp Bootleg is a good set of worksheets to use with your students as a refresher.


 15206912800_7575d27ae3_zMaker-made

We covered our own resources in the first post in this series, but it in this context we’d like to remind you of a few of them:


Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 11.48.38 AMOpen Materials

The Open Materials research group promotes with a wide variety of materials and share dozens of activities through which you too can investigate and experiment. The website—started 5 years ago by Catarina Mota and Kirsty Boyle—shares knowledge, resources and discoveries and documents experiments and processes. For each material, tool and technique in their repository, they describe physical properties, tricks and hacks, where to get it, who’s using it, who’s improving it, and what it’s good for and what it’s not. On their About page, you can limit your materials by category: papertextilespolymersmetalconductivesorganicsceramics & glass. Also, a check out their collection of circuits. The site is open under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA.)

SONY DSCStart Making! @ Clubhouses

The Intel Computer Clubhouse Network of about 100 international community centers devoted to mentoring youth to express themselves creatively through technology. Mentors use the Start Making! @ Clubhouses Activity Guide to facilitate a series of Maker activities, including basic circuitry, coding, crafting, and engineering. Introductory “spark” activities lead into individual and small group “open make” self-designed projects.  The Intel Start Making! initiative piloted this program with girls ages 10-14 in five diverse Clubhouses. The network will further develop and evaluate it with both boys and girls in 40 more Clubhouses all over the world through 2015. Adapt this Guide for your own learning context and add your input as they further develop this guide.


makingstuffNOVA: Making Stuff

NOVA: Making Stuff shares a set of four very well-documented activities on the themes of materials that are stronger, smaller, cleaner, and smarter. Each unit connects to an episode in the series that aired on NOVA (produced by PBS station WGBH), and the lessons were designed for ‘tweens but can be adapted to older and younger children. The site offers video clips, toolkits, demos, information sheets, prep materials, and even a few black and white masters for printing worksheets. (By the way, that’s not Stephen Colbert, pictured left, but rather the show’s host David Pogue.)


NYSCI-SolarOvenNYSci Design Lab

NYSci Design Lab offers DIY videos,  Design Starter Activities, and Extended Design Projects. The Extended group challenges kids to create real-world solutions: Car Idling, Emergency Shelters, Floating Cities, Neutral Buoyancy, Pothole Problems, Refrigeration, Solar Ovens (pictured right), Sound Reduction, and Window Farms… oh and also Surprise Bots, always a fun project even if it’s not solving some dire problem facing humankind. These projects emerged from years of work with dozens of teachers.


build-featured-balloon-joustPBS Design Squad Nation

WGBH produced Design Squad Nation as a 10-part series introducing kids to some of the key topics in engineering: electricity, force/energy, green, health, simple machines, sound/music, space/transportation, sports/games, structures, technology/materials. The producers added 20 related activities to the site, including hovercraft, lunchboxes, balloon jousting, air cannons, slingshots, puppets, marshmallow blaster, and a variety of cars and pop-up cards.


mashProject MASH

Project MASH Toolkits focus on a few areas: Learning Through Internships, Citizen Science, Tinkering & Making, Engagement Games, Problem-Based Learning, and Design Thinking. Each one is a set of activities unto itself. For example, the toolkit on Tinkering and Making, written by The Exploratory, includes three project examples: Industrial Shark Tank, My Body eTextiles, and Spy vs. Spy. The Design Thinking toolkit, on the other hand, has another three maker-friendly projects: Trashketball, Night Hawks Nest, and Spoken Walls.


sparktruckcardsSpark Truck

Spark Truck‘s Tool Cards have projects organized by the tool you’d like to use, with five suggested projects for each tool: laser cutter, vinyl cutter, shop tools, hot glue gun, laptop, 3D printer, clay oven, laminator, as well as a group of simple circuits projects and three collections of projects to do with crafts supplies (paper, popsicle stick, and creatures.)


teamThe Tech’s Design Challenges

For nearly three decades, The Tech Museum of Innovation has been running an annual design challenge, The Tech Challenge. Some of these are archived into timeless Design Challenge lessons which teachers use to lead their students through science and engineering lessons. They also make very fun and effective team-building activities for groups of teachers.


Psst… Capture the Flag (or: Stealing from Camps)

Summer camps are hotbeds of making, so at our home we pick up brochures from local summer camps and use them as a way to decide on a set of projects we want to do as a family. Camp counselors and planners invest a lot of youthful energy into coming up with a great lineup of fun projects, and these projects come kid-tested. It’s a bit like collecting menus as you learn to become a chef.

As camps are often planning for dozens to hundreds of kids at a time, these activities can often easily be adapted into the making classroom. So check out the descriptions of what some of the most maker-friendly camps in your region are offering. The projects chosen are rarely completely unique, and with a bit of Internet sleuthing you can find instructions for doing similar projects in your Maker Club or classroom. I won’t name names here, but here are a few links to give you an idea: a very clever camp, another super genius camp, and a third outstanding camp that I have found inspiring, but honestly you can’t go wrong by learning from camp. (And I’ll mention our own Maker Camp here again, why not?)


What did we miss? Tell us!

Check out our earlier posts in this series:

In our next post we’ll include more specific project sets like  Makey Makey, Nerdy Derby, and lots more.

Be sure to check out the growing resource library built by our friends at the Maker Education Initiative.

What’s your favorite resource for making projects? Add to our list by commenting below.