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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] 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.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 1.27.05 PM

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.


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.

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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.


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.


Finding Starter Projects: Free Software for Making

Image (1) computercostume.jpg for post 57382Learners and teachers have so many free options at their fingertips, we find that fewer are buying the higher-priced software. Just like with all kinds of making, with software these days you can do a lot with a little. Years ago, the costs of new software, especially those used by creative professionals, were prohibitive to schools. Administrators favored programs that kids would encounter in office settings, but we all know that the workplace of the future is a makerspace! The field of what’s available can be intimidating to navigate, however. Who doesn’t download with trepidation? We thought we should share our Maker teachers’ go-to apps.

In today’s post, we share software applications and suites for every maker and maker-to-be. Some of these products are simple to use, while others are far more advanced. For applications that are less intuitive, be sure to seek out tutorials, by both developers and user communities.

Remember to protect your computer. It’s always a good idea to have up-to-date virus software. If downloading from an unknown source, consider typing the application into a search engine to check if other users have raised red flags.


3D DESIGN

123D-Make  123D-Meshmixer123Dapps

123D123D-Creature by Autodesk isn’t one software app – it’s eight. (Six of them are pictured, above.) Create 3D models for printing, prepare files for laser cutting or CNC routing, transform your digital camera into a 3D scanner, or make a wild creature (with 123D Creature app for iPad, right). You can even export files from Tinkercad into Minecraft!

Good for: Beginners designing for the physical world (3D printing, laser cutting, CNC cutting, circuit boards)
Most similar to: CAD programs
Works on:  varies by app, Windows, Mac OSX and iOS, online

 

SketchUpSketchUp is great for building 3D objects, but also entire environments. You may accidentally “pull” the wrong surfaces at first, but watch a few tutorials and you’ll be mocking up your dream makerspace in no time, with furnishings found in SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse, the world’s biggest repository of free 3D models. Like many software programs, memorizing a few keyboard shortcuts will save lots of time.

Good for: Beginners through professionals, as SketchUp has a Pro paid version
Most similar to: CAD programs
Works on:  Windows, Mac OSX


Easel
easel-screenshot
is a software environment designed to be as easy to use as Powerpoint. It has two panels: on the left you design, and in the right you can preview what your final design might look once produced.

Good for: Beginners designing for production at a remote fabricator
Most similar to: Drawing programs
Works on:  Online

2D DESIGN

Inkscape is a free, open-source application with a great tagline: draw freely. Inkscape can be used for illustrating, and is especially useful when you need vector graphics, such as for laser cutting or scaling drawings without the loss of resolution. If you haven’t used Illustrator before, start with the tutorials. You’ll be drawing in no time.

inkscape-logoGood for: Drawing, creating vector graphics for laser cutters and plotters
Most similar to: Adobe Illustrator
Works on:  Windows, Mac OSX, Linux

 

GIMPGIMP has an odd name (it stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program”), but many find it indispensable when it comes to photo retouching and image manipulation. It’s not the most intuitive or pretty of software programs, but it’s powerful. Even if you don’t use all of its extensive functionality, Gimp comes in handy for opening and converting files you couldn’t open (ps, psd, tiff) into more friendly files (bmp, gif, jpeg, pdf, png). If you haven’t used Photoshop before, the tutorials will help you make sense of it all.

Good for: Transforming photographs
Most similar to: Adobe Photoshop
Works on: Windows, Mac OSX, Linux

PROGRAMMING

scratchjr

ScratchScratch & Scratch Jr. may look like they’re just for kids, but we’ve seen plenty of adults delight in this visual programming language. Instead of using text-based commands, Scratch uses blocks than users can drag and snap together. With Scratch, use either the online editor or download for offline use. Create on screen games, animations, and interactive stories, or even connect to the physical world with the addition of a MaKey MaKey or Pico Board. The Scratch community is millions strong and supports a rich supply of help resources.

Good for: Learning to program, making simple games, enhancing the MaKey MaKey
Works on: Online, Windows, Mac OSX, Linux (Scratch), iPad (Scratch Jr.)

 

Arduino IDE (integrated development environment) is an accessible, open source programming language that tells your Arduino (or clone) microcontroller how to sense, think, and act. New users are often surprised at the number of example sketches out there, including dozens that come with the software under file>examples. Although there are extensive resources, tutorials, and books by the likes of Arduino and Make:, users often start learning by looking at Arduino_Logocomplete sketches and playing with variables.

Good for: Programming Arduino microcontrollers
Works on: Windows, Mac OSX, Linux

processing-ideIf you’re a bit more advanced, Processing is a versatile language, and Makers working in sound or video speak highly Pure Data, a visual programming application.

Want more? EdSurge created a comprehensive list of programming applications, along with learning resources, here.


WEB & APP DESIGN

Most folks know about WordPress for authoring websites, but educators and beginning makers are often delighted to discover Mozilla Foundation’s Webmaker tools. These tools are a great way to learn how to create the web and app resources you use everyday like web pages, interactive videos, and mobile apps. The in-browser tool X-Ray Goggles may tickle your web newbies’ funny bones!

mozilla-webmaker_logo-wordmark_RGBGood for: Taking control of the web
Works on:  Online

 

appinventorMIT App Inventor lets makers do just that: design their own apps. This cloud-based application also has a phone emulator, allowing makers to create apps even without the hardware.

MITAppInventor-logoGood for: Apps, from games to citizen science
Works on:  Online

VIDEO

If you have a computer, you probably already have Windows’ Movie Maker or Mac OSX’s iMovie. But sometimes you may need a little something more.

Can’t open that file? VLC Player is a lifesaver when it comes to playing unusual file formats. It has basic VLC-logo-Bedit functions as well.

Good for: Opening media files
Works on: Nearly everything! Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, Ubuntu, Android, iOS…

 

Or perhaps you want to do something a bit different. Stop motion animation is all the rage, and HUE by iCreate to Educate is one of the leading applications for use in education. That said, HUE Animation isn’t free, so if you’re looking for free, Jelly Cam includes the essential functions, like onion skin, file importing, and the ability to add sound.

JellyCam-logoGood for: Creating stop motion animations for fun and/or education
Works on: Windows, Mac OSX

AUDIO

AudacityScreenshots is many makers’ go-to for free audio software. Check out Audacity’s Wiki for tips, and check out Make’s project ideas Auditory Illusions and Found Sound.

audacity-logoGood for: Recording and editing sound, podcasts, music, and foley
Most similar to: Pro Tools
Works on: Windows, Mac OSX, Linux

EVERYTHING ELSEdownload-by-cnet-logo

If your software technology needs aren’t listed above, check resources like Download by CNET and the Free Software Foundation, along with blogs like EdSurgeedsurge-logo, Free Tech for Teachers, Free Technology for Teachersand eLearning Industry. There are many, many free applications out there. Use caution, then enjoy the free bounty!

 

 


 

DISCOUNTS

If you plan on purchasing software, don’t forget to check for educational discounts! Established software companies like Autodesk and Adobe offer significant discounts to educational organizations – all the way up to 100%.


WHAT DID WE MISS? TELL US!

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

 


Popular at Public Lab

Out in Zone 5, Liz Barry of Public Lab is sensing strong interest in spectrometry.

The reason: “It’s like a Tricorder for $10!”

public-lab

Liz Barry of Public Lab

The Public Lab is a community where you can learn how to investigate environmental concerns.

Using inexpensive DIY techniques, Public Labs seeks to change how people see the world in environmental, social, and political terms.

And a good place to start: spectrometry.

“Because you can use it to tell what things are made of,” Liz says.

spectrometer-new-in-use_1024x1024

The desktop spectrometer from Public Lab

Get out to Zone 5 and check it out!


Live from New York: The Day Before World Maker Faire

In this special edition of Maker Camp, we’ll be coming to you LIVE from New York, one day before we open the doors to the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth! We invite classrooms, kids, teens, families… anyone to join us for this 30-minute virtual field trip on Friday, 9/19/14 starting at 2 p.m. Eastern / 11 a.m. Pacific Time.

Watch on Google+

Ask your questions to the makers, live with the Q&A chat function

Watch on YouTube

You can also watch the live stream on YouTube

Our host Paloma (Maker Camp Director 2014) will be talking to a few of the hundreds of makers who will be sharing their creations this weekend, September 20  and 21, 2014.

If you can’t join us live, you can always check out the Hangout on Air archive on Make’s YouTube Channel.

Featured Makers

Help is at Hand

Sashimi Tabernacle Choir

Beatbox and Bicycle Wheel

NYSci World Maker Faire Village