The 2012 season marked a big jump for us, as we moved to a regional model in the Bay Area, with three tremendous partners–the Lawrence Hall of Science, The Tech Museum of Innovation, and The Bay School– hosting 12 fantastic Open Makes this spring, with regional meetings and plussing sessions where our Young Maker members shared their projects in progress. We have over 150 makers exhibiting at least 75 projects this year. We learned a lot from this experiment that we hope to use to continue to grow the network nationally, supporting local partners as they find the promising young makers and inspiring mentors in their own communities. We all want more kids making, and this season showed that with the right regional partners and the power of perseverance and imagination in kids, we can make it happen!
We also grew the program with an affiliated effort in the classroom setting, forming a network of 15 Northern Californian high schools, who either established makerspaces in the 2012-13 school year or shared the expertise they had from running programs in making with those who were new to making in the classroom. By working with schools, we reach many new audiences with kids who have never heard about the maker movement, much less had a chance to build something uniquely their own at the crossroads of art, craft, engineering, science, and technology. Through our work on makerspaces, we estimate that our teachers have delivered making programs to upwards of 700 students.
While I’m really looking forward to seeing how all 75+ young makers projects turned out, plus the projects from the high school makerspaces, there are a few that especially piqued my interest. The South Bay region really blossomed this year, making a really strong showing in the number and ambition of its young makers. It boasted three large and very active clubs producing dozens of great projects.
Matthew and Davis show off their tile design.
The Willow Glen Makers
The Willow Glen Makers take on the great tradition of starting with something smaller than a breadbox and scaling it up to human-size. Flow•26 takes the popular puzzle game app Flow Free to life-size: you hop from square to square, working with other players to connect the nodes and light up the tiles. Makers Davis Dunaway, Samantha McGinnis, and Matthew Tung created Flow•26’s interactive platform so that each tile has an Arduino and a load cell to enable LED control and tile-to-tile communication. Another interesting project from the same club comes from fellow members Raymond Cao and Andrew Wu. They created Chubby Ball, a remote-controlled ball that uses motors, gears and weights to move around.
Those are some pipes!
Jason Duckering built an impressively loud Pipe Instrument. It was hard to miss when it made its premiere at Open Make @ The Tech a couple of months ago: you could hear it echoing through the galleries from hundreds of feet away. All this from some PVC, flip-flops and sticks, and a lot of hard work. He even wrote his own customized sheet music for his songs! When we last saw Jason at a Young Makers regional meeting, he was pretty much done with building his project, way ahead of schedule, and he was going to focus on signage to help people understand the physics behind its design.
Now that we’ve been running the program for a few years, new approaches emerge. Visitors to Maker Faire Bay Area 2011 will remember the popular fire-breathing dragon, Saphira, created by the club Central Marin Young Makers. (See a video if you need a refresher!). This year, she rises again! The Silicon Valley Young Makers (Megan Marinchak, Cassandra Marinchak, Peter Coish, Mallory Coish, Felix Nordmark, Jasper Fung, Mark Grivnin, Malik Deslauriers, James Good) adopted this earlier Young Makers project, taking the parts and rebuilding her in all her glory, and making her even more majestic: updating the wings, adding sound, and more. We’re hoping that more and more of these very ambitious projects can move from club to club, continually improved by new teams.
Making in families
The Schertles could probably get the prize for Most Enthusiastic Maker Family of the Year. They put together the Armchair Go Kart Trailer (pictured, top) not only to provide a cushy ride as they pedal through the streets of the South Bay (Rick is its outstanding regional coordinator), but also to spread the word about Young Makers and Maker Faire, serving up some sweet dollops of tasty schwag. And then, after Maker Faire is just a misty memory, Kelly and Micah head south to the Nicaraguan town of San Juan de Oriente this summer with parents Rick and Angie, where they’ll be sharing their love of making with friends as the family leads a science camp in partnership with La Vida Education. Making pervades every waking moment of the Schertle household, it seems!
Speaking of families, over in the East Bay, Kurt and Lena Fleischer (of Water Totter fame, shown at East Bay Mini Maker Faire and Maker Faire Bay Area 2011 with the Young Sparks club) return with mom Nagisa and Lena’s 6-year-old siblings Ella and Toby for Fleischer-Yamamoto Family Projects. Think of it as a prototype for what Kurt and I hope can become a full-fledged program someday: “Maker Families.” They’re bringing Lena’s fairy wings, Ella’s Japanese geta shoes, Toby’s toy truck bridge, Nagisa’s lighted hat and jacket, and an Arduino-based, LED-laden, hedgehog alarm clock.
That last project was by a dad for his nearly-teenage daughter, and his apparent motivation behind it made us smile, just as two other projects did: these were made by older sisters who are members of the Kids Makin’ It club in Los Gatos and Los Altos. The Doom Girls hacked their “little brothers’ favorite toys to make them move so our brothers will get distracted and we can steal their stuff.” Similarly, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Clarke built Anti-Unwanted Guest to lock her two sisters out of her room. She programmed it to require a unique code. I love that sibling rivalry can be applied positively towards making!
Keeping it in the family and heading to the North Bay, sisters Isabella and Silvia Kacic return for their third year exhibiting with Young Makers. They’ve developed a body of work in two interesting niches. Isabella’s Dragon Horse builds off of her earlier projects, a kinetic horse and an animatronic cow jumping over the moon. Silvia, who brought her whimsical Fairy Wall House to Maker Faire last year, revisits interior design with a comfortable, relaxing, secure pod or nest to fit one person.
Home (suh-weet!) home
There are a few projects related to houses in this year’s Young Makers cohort. Ava Baker and Ellora Laskar built their Recycled House of recycled materials: cardboard tubes as support beams, plastic for the insulation, and a papercrete outer layer. While the teeny house they’re bringing this weekend is only big enough for a child to use, they estimate that a full-scale real house would cost less than $100. Chelsea Bartlett and Andrew Wallace of the Terra Linda Young Makers came up with a brilliant use for the ol’ “jellybean” iMac G3. They gutted this obsolete late-90s computer to create their own mini iMansion for Cyber-Dollhouse.
From Fez to Fish
Young Makers, just like older makers, often riff off of favorite toys. Perri Szabo, Braiden Szabo, Griffin Ashburn, Koii Benvenutto, and Bobby Lester have pretty much realized the original vision we heard them propose at the Young Makers East Bay regional meeting back in January. They have built an Arduino-controlled robot in the form of a creepy fez-topped monkey who interacts with random fairgoers, clanging its cymbals together just like the funny wind-up toy, but, once again, scaled up for comic effect. They write, “We are looking to make it scary, but not too scary.” I tremble, not with fear but with excitement, to see how this crazy simian turned out.
Another project inspired by kid culture is Ksenia Medvedev and Sydney Murphy’s Folktails. These mermakers built their own realistic mermaid tails in pursuit of “a childhood wish to swim like fish”. They’ll splash around in our Young Makers area this weekend. Read more about the project on our blog.
The more I read through all our Young Makers projects, the more excited I get for Maker Faire, so I can see how these kids made their whimsical, creative visions a reality. Good thing I only have to wait a little over a day!
Go kart heartbreak
After all that good news, I share a sad report that we received from a mentor at the Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland. On Monday morning, someone stole the EV Go Kart, pictured below, from their campus on Hegenberger Road. Fortunately, the team hadn’t installed the components yet because they planned to paint it. To help look for it while the go-kart’s makers had to stay at school to take their California standardized tests, classmates from the EV truck conversion team drove off to the local scrap buyer. As depressing to think that someone sold the blood, sweat, and tears of these young men as scrap metal, the team did not waste time to come up with their Plan B. On Wednesday, the team was completing their inverter panel for their solar re-charging system. They had received an electric scooter without a charger and were promised another. They will spend the next couple of days decorating the scooters with their school’s name. The vehicles will be solar-charged, and they will offer a charge to anyone else at Maker Faire. They may also tackle an EV conversion of a mobile muffin cupcake if the final hours before Maker Faire allow.
I’d like to close with an ardent and enormous thank you especially to our regional coordinators: Kevin Rumon, Miranda Morgan, Sara Bolduc, Molly Reisman, K.O., Yoshi Seaver, and Rick Schertle and our three host sites: Monika Mayer of Lawrence Hall of Science, Bridget Rigby at The Tech Museum of Innovation, and Brad Niven of The Bay School for all their hard work this season.
In 2010, Natalie and her family made the 10 hour drive from San Diego to Maker Faire Bay Area. They were so excited by what they saw at the Faire that they decided they needed to be part of it next year, and the Love & Rockets Young Makers Club was born on the trip home. They were already building robots and making things like a giant, backyard movie screen, so it was no surprise that the maker community welcomed them.
Love and Rockets Young Makers Club
In 2011, they returned to Maker Faire with eleven new visitors, including two from Natalie’s son’s high school Make Club and FIRST Robotics team. And finally, in 2012, they returned as participants, with more friends and club members. Natalie says: “We called it Maker Faire Prom, because club members were choosing Maker Faire over their senior prom. They firmly believe it was a great choice.” For the 2012 Faire, Maria, the club’s youngest member, brought her wool felting expertise. Alex came with his designs and aspirations for building an automaton, and a preliminary hand robot that autonomously draws on paper. Eli drew a crowd with his Coppercaster, a guitar he designed and was completing, made mostly of copper tubing. He also put together a tuneful little banjo, made from a thrifted salmon box.
Love and Rockets at the 2012 Maker Faire
Next week they hit the road again for the long trip to Maker Faire, bringing more new visitors and as much anticipation as ever. Natalie describes their projects: “Maria is returning with her wool felting and adding needles this time. She’s been learning new wool felting techniques and wants to demonstrate how she can take wool roving and make designs and artful images by jabbing wool with sharp needles. Max has decided to participate this year, so he will be showing his foam weapons. He’s been making and playing with them since last spring, and are they ever compelling. Max makes them oversized and safe, so the urge to pick them up and play at battling is irresistible. He wants to share how easy, affordable, and worthwhile these are to make.”
Maria and Max with their projects for the 2013 Faire
In between the big Faires, the group has held our own backyard “Mini-Mini-Maker Faires”, and even a lemonade and bake sale with a Maker Faire vibe. Natalie says that she knows her family would be making T-shirt cannons, Ruben’s tubes, hula-hoops, and robots no matter what, but being able to come together and share their experiences and their love of making with other people is always one of their favorite parts of the year.
Briony Chown’s fourth graders at Explorer Elementary in San Diego use woodworking to build a welcoming room for an immigrant from a different time period, using primary interview research with recent immigrants.
Teachers love Maker Faire because they see how much it means to engage their students as makers. For Teacher Appreciation Week, we want to salute educators who bring the maker movement to kids in schools and in after-school programs. We believe making has the power to transform education and develop the potential of every child to create and innovate. Getting making into schools can be difficult so we’re particularly happy to applaud the efforts of pioneering educators who are leading the way. It’s important that these pioneers realize that they’re not alone.
“It’s great to hear back from others in the Maker movement,” one teacher writes us. “It gets a bit solitary at times without a lot of others in my school in this mindset.”
We invite teachers to come for free to Maker Faire in hopes that there is a growing number of them helping to bring this important change to education. They are a vital component of the maker community.
Teachers: Join our Educators’ Meetup Thursday, May 16 (4-7pm). Sign up now because there are just a few spots left, and it’s free! Over 200 teachers made for a wonderful party in 2012, and we hope you can be a part of this year’s gathering. You can also get free tickets to Maker Faire as well as get a preview of educational offerings at Maker Faire.
Students of Nick Trainos at the George Harvey Collegiate Institute learn about design, measuring, and how television works while building their own HD TV antennae.
But why do educators want to come to Maker Faire in the first place? Here’s some of what we heard from teachers over the past year about why they like making and Maker Faire:
My kids LOVED Maker Faire last year. They don’t have the opportunity to make–hardly ever. Since my students are from a low-income area, we don’t always have the resources and time to spend on project-based learning. This is still an area of growth for me as a teacher, but I love being able to take my kids to Maker Faire, at the very least. – Tiffany P., a middle school teacher in East Palo Alto
The students are natural tinkerers; they want to know how things work and why things are the way they are…. This year we opened the art room for a tinkering studio during recess on a student drop-in basis. Students made things from blimps to bots to other things they found in MAKE magazine. Ideally, projects I create encourage kids to see themselves as able to manipulate materials and make things. They explore different mediums as well as student’s identity. — Melita M., a middle school art specialist in Corte Madera
Students in my classes are very strong academically. They show their deeper understanding through hands-on projects, not just through traditional means such as testing and experiments. Projects also give students practice working in collaborative ways towards a common goal. “Making” allows students use their knowledge and skills to bring concepts to life. – Debbie C., an elementary school teacher in Cupertino
I love the inspiration that Maker Faire provides: it helps fuel our creative projects for months following! – Johanna D., a preschool and elementary homeschool teacher in Fremont
I am a school/clinical psychologist. One of our main strategies to help our students is to involve them in “making things”, ranging from art to crafts to models to gardening. Because of their emotional problems, and often learning problems as well, many of my students have faced years of academic failure. Making things helps them to feel competent, productive. They sometimes express emotions through arts and crafts. They often can feel part of a community of makers and/or can share what they have made with family. I sometimes do art therapy individually with the students. Making is a very valuable tool to help these adolescents feel competent and/or artistic and thus feel better about themselves. – a high school class therapist in the East Bay
We make as a way to connect after school, during down-time, etc. It’s nothing formal – no organized club or anything, but it’s turned out to be a great way to relate with some of the students. They see ways for us to solve problems (even if it’s not using the formal knowledge they’re working on in the classroom – they’re working on the same types of strategies). – Joe F., a high school math and science teacher in Georgia
I really enjoyed Maker Faire last year because I got to see a lot of innovation and ideas that I could bring back to my classroom. It also gave me ideas on where to help students foster creativity. It also helped me to start look at developing ideas to make the curriculum more accessible for my students through shrinkable cell models, career opportunities, adaptors that could make cell phones into microscopes. – Janet L., a high school science teacher in Gilroy
I teach adult students who are not native speakers of English. Some have little formal education in their home countries; others have graduate and professional degrees. What all need is a reason to communicate in English. Projects and hands-on activities give students a reason to work together, increase their vocabulary and provide a safe way that the more and less educated students can be on the same level–all are beginning at the same point in the task. – Pam K., a college professor in Modesto
I love the creativity in making and find that it is vital for our students to learn how to be creative and imaginative. We have some very interested techie makers, but I would like to draw out more of the artistic makers, who may not consider themselves as such. I think it will be highly rewarding for them to make something that might also do something and for all students to see the importance of art in all of it. We are an all boys school, grades K-9, and we have lots of energy to dedicate to making the world a better place. – Joanne C., a classroom teacher, technology resource teacher and integrator in New York City
I have done the [biological] cell that I learned at Maker Faire two years ago, but I did it with polymer clay where they put the different colors together for the different parts then we cut it in half before I baked them! We did little wooden birdhouse for the holidays, as a decoration. They never got that it was math! (LOL) They had to measure each side and make templates to cut out their paper, figure the perimeter of the birdhouse, and how to cut the template so as to use as little paper as possible. Maker Faire had a project just like it at the field trip Friday my class attended. These students struggle with all learning. They think that school is unnecessary. It has taken most of this year with some of the things I have seen done at Maker Faire to get them to engage in discussing things of science and math. I thank you for that! Our school has a rocket club, but my students are not involved. To them it is too nerdy and not cool, but they now look forward to the thing I have brought to class for them! I am hoping to see new ideas this year. – a special education teacher in the Bay Area
I have found so many creative ideas every time I attend Maker Faire, and I love how everyone who attends, no matter what their age, has a great time learning and exploring. Hopefully, I’ll get to attend again this year! – Giselle V., a preschool and kindergarten teacher in Palo Alto
I always have felt that students need to be more engaged with their hands. Making things is something they seem to do naturally, and it would seem that giving them skills to “make” would further their abilities and in turn, our civilization. I think the future lies in encouraging kids to dream and make. – Gwen M., an elementary school teacher in Redwood City
Next week we’ll be making homemade playdough and goo. I pick projects that can easily be carried out in our classroom, and then replicated (or expanded) in the classrooms where my students work….I’m especially excited about all the great ideas I’ll get at this year’s Maker Faire. – Annemarie K., a preschool teacher and child development professor in San Francisco
What I love about Maker Faire is that it’s everything important: creativity, science, opportunity for families to make together, lots of resources, putting making, science, art, electronics, math, engineering, etc. all together. It makes sense/everything’s connected. We look forward to Maker Faire all year long and we tell everyone we know about it all year long. In my classes, I use the Maker attitude when I teach. Ignite creativity and imagination and connect projects to the world through inquiry. I teach art but more than that, I assist/support/facilitate the students to explore materials and invent with their knowledge and experience. My best projects are ones the students devise and expand on what I teach. They show me more in the world than I could imagine. I believe, when their minds “make,” they have arrived! — Nancy Gittleman , a preschool and elementary visual art teacher in San Francisco
I’ve been interested in 3d printing and electronics for a while. Last semester one of my students used an Arduino in his final project and it pushed me towards trying it out myself. I recently purchased a Printrbot 3d printer and have assembled it. I’m hoping to get some inspiration at the Maker Faire for projects and gather information about electronics projects and how feasible they are to do. – Stewart G., a professor of art and computer science in San Francisco
I love making and and requiring my students to make, because it’s FUN! From an educational standpoint, I have observed that the best design engineers are those with substantial experience making things. Most companies I know look to hire engineers with hands-on (i.e., ‘making’) experience. My students find that their term project, where they have to make a mechstronic system, is the best part of the course. Making is vitally important to a solid mechanical engineering education. – Burford F., a university engineering professor in San Jose
Katie Topper’s students at the Julia Morgan School for Girls build and launch model rockets as part of their special day to honor female engineers.
What I love most about making is the individual creativity that occurs when given the same project. They all look different and they all look the same. We can all learn something about each person’s technique or vision. Art is so subjective that it makes life more interesting. – Joanne G., an art educator for adults in San Mateo
I am a teacher and crafter…. I can’t explain why ‘making’ things as part of the learning experience has been a part of my teaching, but it has, and my students’ responses to the various projects have been not only validating but have buoyed my teaching spirit…. Every time my students engage in these kinds of projects, their value is immediately evident. Students speak openly and to each other of the process, its goals, and its outcomes, and I am witness to a learning experience that is not only a broad sensory experience but a deep one as well. Thank you for what you have and continue to do. – Maggie L., a high school English teacher & facilitator in Santa Barbara
The projects and things we make are often driven by the required curriculum (such as our 3D cell models to show the structure and function of plant and animal cells) and sometimes driven by student interest or individual needs (such as a blueprint for an “array gun” created by a student trying to understand the relationship between multiplication and division… Of course we couldn’t actually build such a thing in a school setting.) What I love about making is that it allows kids to express their ideas in a creative, meaningful, and unique way. It solidifies learning and helps kids connect the dots! – Laura J., a K-8 special education teacher in Santa Clara
Kids love experiencing their world through all their senses and that’s what I love about teaching them to be Makers. Plus, it’s a great way to connect with my own father who still advises and supports my journey in so many ways. – Krissie O., a preschool and elementary homeschool teacher & facilitator in Santa Cruz
What we make depends on the lesson-theme for our 6-week units. For instance, when we studied Australia and the Aborigines, we made — and played — didgeridoos and made etchings in bark. I choose my projects based on how it will enrich the curriculum and, truly, cement the theme and lessons in their minds. I have found that kids are very hands-on, most kids any way. And if they can take home a project, and talk to their parents about it, it makes learning more meaningful. — Camilla M., a elementary school teacher in Seaside
I am a 3rd grade teacher, and I work in the same school that I went to when I was little. My commute is 45 minutes away, but at the end of the day, this is my home away from home. Our test scores are typically low, but it’s not that our teachers or students don’t try their hardest. Going to Maker Faire inspires me to bring science and math alive in my own classroom. If you were to look at test data, we are the lowest ranked elementary school in our district. We have a large Title I and second-language population. But if you were to come here in person, we are more than just statistics. Our kids are thoughtful in their interactions and in their discussions about text. Our kids make progress, just not according to another person’s timetable. I would love to make more things in the classroom. Our kids deserve it. Sometimes economics inhibits the ability to go outside your community, so sometimes experiences need to come to us to build their prior knowledge. Our test scores are typically low, but it’s not that our teachers or students don’t try their hardest. Going to Maker Faire inspires me to bring science and math alive in my own classroom. – a 3rd Grade teacher in Union City
I’ve used a lot of the ideas found at Maker Faire in my classroom. I tie projects into the curriculum to teach science and math concepts that might otherwise be difficult for students to comprehend. The hands-on approach of making helps students, especially tactile learners, to visualize and retain that information as they progress in their academic career. – Katherine T., a 1st Grade teacher in Union City
We have centered an entire 5-day trip to San Francisco around the Maker Faire as we feel it will allow the children to see the world of “making” as not linear. Making can happen in all shapes, sizes and forms. We are hoping that this experience will allow that special spark to grow even brighter. – Pam K., an elementary school teacher & administrator in Walnut
Teaching and learning is all about hands-on. We do as many learning activities as we can that put students in the center of “making” their learning. – Ivy P., a 3rd Grade teacher in Waterford
Maker Faire is great place for me to get ideas for projects for the students. I love encouraging the students to go and coming back on Monday to hear about how much they enjoyed it. – Christine C., a middle school English teacher in Berkeley
Read what educators said about what they love about making, makers, and Maker Faire in 2012 and 2011.
Carolyn Glaser’s class followed up a geology unit with this art project and then a writing project.
A Guide To Maker Faire for Educators
Download our new Class Pack for you to use in classrooms to talk about making and Maker Faire.
Attend Educators’ Meetup, Thursday, May 16 (4-7pm): We are going to run out of space! See our invitation. We have a full slate of fun, hands-on activities and projects, meant to get you making, take things home, refine your skills, share project and curriculum ideas, and learn about what other educators are doing with their students and in their classrooms.
Education Day, Thursday, May 16: SOLD OUT. If you want to be on our list to hear about our preview field trips the next time we offer them, add your name to our Maker Faire Education Community. Check out our new, fun, and educational Class Pack.
Teacher Tickets for Maker Faire: See our form for more information if you’re an educator who wants to attend Maker Faire for free. Be ready to send us a photo and a short description of a project that you have created, either on your own, with your students, and/or in your classrooms.
Educational Discount: Maker Faire offers a 35 percent discount for qualified teachers and your students. If you would like discounted teacher ticket for Maker Faire Bay Area 2013, please fill out our form. You will need to verify that you teach 15 or more students in a classroom setting. Discounts cannot be combined with any other offer. Discount tickets must be purchased by May 17 (Midnight PST).
Attend Friday’s How to Make a Makerspace Workshop on the grounds of Maker Faire in San Mateo. There’s a fee to cover breakfast and lunch. While not limited to educational makerspaces, you’ll learn about how to organize and implement makerspaces that serve a wide range of needs in the community. Please register at: http://makerspacews.eventbrite.com/. Learn more about the program.
Visit the Model Makerspace at Maker Faire to learn about creating spaces to inspire and engage young makers.
Check out the two designated Young Makers areas: one east of Expo Hall featuring the inspiring projects by over 150 Young Makers program participants, and the other at the top of the Midway, sponsored by Cognizant and dedicated to hands-on experiences.
We’re delighted to announce a new addition to this year’s Maker Faire educational offerings: a Class Pack filled with behind-the-scenes information and activity sheets designed just for you: teachers and parents who look forward to Maker Faire as your favorite learning-packed weekend of the year! Whether or not you are coming to our sold out Education Day on Thursday, May 16, take a peek for materials that you might want to use in your classroom. We’d like to share some of the special treats you’ll find in this 38-page booklet.
A Recipe for a Maker Faire
We have swung open the doors of our maker pantry and listed a good number of the ingredients that go into our recipe for Maker Faire, which feeds the imaginations of 120,000 visitors and 900 Makers.
We took our delicious DIY feast and came up with some challenging scenarios you can use to prompt a discussion with your kids. Get the Maker Faire Recipe card, and find the Maker Faire Planner Challenge ideas on page 21 the Class Pack.
This paint-by-Makers activity, best for second grade and up (just because of the vocabulary we use in the game,) reveals an “M” for just about anyone who is human, not an android, etc., so we expect everyone in your classroom to end up feeling like “everyone is a maker.” Get the Am I a Maker? worksheet individually, or on page 26 of the Class Pack.
We have put together a grid of the kinds of experiences we hope you will have and the kinds of things we hope you will see during your visit to Maker Faire. (By the way, if you use this with students, please do what you can make sure that this “game” sparks interactions with makers rather than dampens them. Avoid running from maker to maker, trying to mark off all the boxes, cutting off interactions with makers in order to check off another box, and in the end, winning the game, but missing the point.) Don’t forget to come up with a great making-related prize for the winner(s) of the game.
Light Up and Paint
We saw our friends from Intel prototyping this activity at an Open Make at the Lawrence Hall of Science this spring, and they shared it with us as part of their commitment to the Maker Education Initiative. The Light Up & Paint activity uses a simple LED light circuit and freely available software called Glow Doodle to let you paint with light. You can see some examples of what kids make in this activity above or in this video. Light Up & Paint introduces students to the basics of circuitry and also encourages creativity. It can be used as a stepping stone to further explorations of electronics and circuit building. Get the writeup of the activity individually or on page 19 of the Class Pack.
Wacky Project Brainstorm
We’ve put together a sheet you can use to help brainstorm a project your kids might create for Maker Faire. Sure, they might not do the exact project that results from this exercise, but we want to encourage divergent thinking and interdisciplinary projects. Combine “things the world needs” or “big problems to solve in the next 100 years or so” with things you “like to make, do, or buy.” with the diverse themes of Maker Faire. In our example, you could put together “places for billions to live”, “chocolate” and “electronic music” by composing The Chocolate Factory Where I Live: A Sonata for Synthesizers. Or maybe a commercial jingle about houses made out of cacao tree bark. Let your imagination soar. The crazier the idea, the better the maker project of the future! Look at the Make Up Your Mind brainstorm sheet individually, or on page 32 of the Class Pack.
We’re pretty sure everyone appreciates a sincere question from an interested young person no matter how busy it gets at Maker Faire. We collected some common questions onto cards so that every kid in your group can have her “own” question to ask or so that a shy kid can have some cue cards for their questions. Print out the Conversation Starters master, or find it on page 29 of the Class Pack.
What’s the first project you can remember making as a kid?
Did you have a mentor that helped get you into making?
How long have you been working on this project?
How do you get started on a project?
What inspired you to start working on this?
Where do you get your ideas?
Do you hope to inspire other makers with your project?
Are you trying to address a real-world problem?
What’s your favorite tool?
Will you make a business out of this or is it just for fun?
Have you collaborated with others on this?
What other maker projects inspire you?
What does your workspace look like: at work? at home?
Where do you hope this takes you? What do you plan to do in the future?
Have you ever taught someone else how to make something?
Make Your Own Sketchbook
Encourage your students to make their own mini data notebook, science journal, or sketchbook to record what they see at Maker Faire. Instructions and black-and-white templates inspired by our Maker’s Notebook. Find our book-making instructions on page 8 of the Class Pack and the templates for the cover, endpaper, inside pages and stickers in its final pages.
Other educational offerings
Educators’ Meetup, Thursday, May 16 (4-7pm): We are going to run out of space! See our invitation. It’s free and 200+ teachers made it a wonderful party in 2012. Don’t miss out on 2013. We have a full slate of fun, hands-on activities and projects, meant to get you making, take things home, refine your skills, share project and curriculum ideas, and learn about what other educators are doing with their students and in their classrooms.
Education Day, Thursday, May 16: SOLD OUT. If you want to be on our list to hear about our preview field trips the next time we offer them, add your name to our Maker Faire Education Community.
Teacher Tickets for Maker Faire: See our form for more information. Be ready to send us a photo and a short description of a project that you have created, either on your own, with your students, and/or in your classrooms.
Educational Discount: Maker Faire offers a 35 percent discount for qualified teachers and your students. If you would like discounted teacher ticket for Maker Faire Bay Area 2013, please fill out our form. You will need to verify that you teach 15 or more students in a classroom setting. Discounts cannot be combined with any other offer. Discount tickets must be purchased by May 17 (Midnight PST).
This is a story of two Michigan high school students putting their robotics expertise to great use. Wyatt Smrcka and Micah Stuhldreher of Pinckney Community High School, who took first place in the 2012 SkillsUSA robotics competition, were tapped with task of building a robotic locker door for fellow student Nick Torrance who suffers from muscular dystrophy. The video below doesn’t show the mechanism operating inside the locker too well, but it is a great story nonetheless.
For young makers, making is more than learning how to use a particular tool or a technique. It’s experiencing the power of a material, technology, or tool as a language of self expression. It’s PLAYING with different languages and experiencing the magic of connections that is made when what you have made makes someone laugh, cry, or wonder.
One powerful combination of materials we use a lot in Maker Scouts is clay , wire, and stop motion. We have noticed that playing with clay with the whole body provides a therapeutic experience for many young children with developing neurological processes. The proprioceptive input that they get from rolling, jumping, punching, and kneading clay relaxes their body’s need to move constantly and gives them the opportunity to focus on a project. For some, it’s the first time they have control over their body and that discovery is so powerful for the child, parent, and educator. Wire provides fine motor exercises that help children work with small tools and really learn about twisting. Stop motion animation enables the youngest child to have the ability to tell a story using the simplest of tasks–especially for those who struggle to use words – spoken or written. As directors of their own experience, with one click and with each movement of the clay “actor,” we get a glimpse of their inner soul.
This week, I purchased eight blocks of 50 lb. clay blocks and just laid them out on a painter’s cloth on the grass. As scouts came in, we didn’t say anything and just let them experience the clay in its raw form. Some scouts jumped on the blocks, others rolled, others pulled pieces off and threw then down to experience the sound, temperature and consistency of the clay. They came to their own understanding of how to work with clay – that kneading it, with hands or knees results in softer clay, that throwing a smaller piece onto an another had an unexpected result.
Armed with that experience, they were then invited to a table where they had smaller blocks of the same clay and a series of clay working tools awaiting them. Here they were able to experiment with different tools that could be used to cut, smooth, subtract, add and a whole lot more. Some decided that they wanted to see how stop motion worked, so, they went over to the stop motion stations and used a blog of clay to tell a story. We had stop motion software installed on PC’s, Mac’s. Ipad’s, and iPhones. It was out hope that parents could see that whatever piece of technology they had, that they could provide this story-telling medium for as little as 99 cents.
Some scouts moved over to the wire armature table once they had a design of a character and a good understanding of how the stop motion works. They were introduced to wire tools and how to build the skeleton of their character. Wire is a very interesting material to work with. Twisting along many different axes is a learned skill and one that takes quite a bit of practice. The tension of the wire also makes a difference as to whether arms stay on the body and whether feet and hands do what the artist wants them to do. It was amazing to see the patience with which the scouts worked with their unfamiliar tools and material.
Once they had an armature, they then moved over to another clay table where they used non-drying modeling clay to “skin” their armatures. This is a great exercise for fine motor skill muscles as they add small 1 inch x 1 inch squares of clay and use their thumbs to smooth the connections. It can be a very regulating and mindful activity as they sit for about an hour layering clay piece upon clay piece. And parents are always amazed at how long young children will devote to this type of activity.
Once they were happy with the clay and the connections, they took their creation to the stop motion station and made their movies. Two hours really isn’t enough to formulate a developed story, but we were amazed at what these young children were able to create in such a short time. What was equally exciting was to notice the level of detail that had been building while they were playing with the clay and wire. Some scouts had a background song already in mind, other’s had a comedy skit all ready to go, and others had a full blown three-part play.
In the upcoming badge sessions, we will have a series of guild meetings that will introduce the tools of storytelling and I can’t wait to see what the scouts will make when they have 12-16 hours as opposed to 1.5.
Finally, I need to share a story about an 8 year old boy who has been identified with all kinds of challenges and whose ticks are kept under control by medication. Because of his challenges, he struggles to use verbal and written words to communicate. When he works with clay, the world disappears and his ticks are no more as both his hands are busy. When we invited him to make a stop motion animation, what he made in about 15 minutes blew us all away. Working with the clay had enabled him to slow his mind and body down to develop an idea and the animation he produced, gave us so much insight into how his mind works and his great sense of humor.
One of the greatest rewards of being a mentor if finding that one material or medium that speaks to a child and facilitates for them, the ability to show the world who they are.
Looking for a simple yet fun kit to get youngsters into making? Check out the Make: SpinBot Kit from the Maker Shed. This kit lets them create a simple, vibrating “robot” that makes unique works of art. The kit was designed with ease of use and creativity in mind, so even the most novice maker can build it. The bot’s frame is held together using colorful zip-ties or rubber bands (plenty of both included) to encourage artistic expression. Just attach the drawing implements of your choice, add the vibrating motor and batteries, and you’re off and running.
The SpinBot Kit is the brainchild of Christopher Myers and Anne Mayoral who form ArtBot Toys, a company founded with the goal of connecting kids and the STEM fields at an early age. They’ve attended multiple Maker Faires where their SpinBots never fail to draw a crowd. Be sure to see their demo at Maker Faire Bay Area this May!
Over the next two weekends we have the final set of events in our series of regional Young Maker/Open Makes in the San Francisco Bay Area leading up to Maker Faire Bay Area. At last, this month the two public events are on different Saturdays, so you can go to both! Each event offers a range of activities that starts at 10am and ends with an inspiring “meet-the-makers” panel discussion. Registered Young Makers will share their Maker Faire projects in progress in a plussing session. This will be our final set of Young Makers events until next season, so if you’re not already on our mailing list, be sure to sign up to hear about future Young Maker events.
This Saturday, April 13 at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, Jay Silver will show you how to play your drawings with Sketch It! Play It!, one of his latest inventions growing out of his work with Intel’s Start Making! initiative, as well as Drawdio, Reactable Mobile, Singing Fingers, and the ok2touch jacket. Jay will be a stone’s throw from a giant version of his mega-popular MaKey MaKey. It’s been super-sized by our friends at Lawrence Hall of Science, as seen in this picture (below) from an event at the Hall in February. Dave Merrill, co-founder of Sifteo, will delight you with those playful cubes in the picture at the top of this post. Students from the Menlo School’s Applied Science Research class will strum their stuff with a variety of musical projects they’re working on for Maker Faire. Learn more about the Featured Makers or the event.
On April 13, we have a second excellent Young Makers gathering at the same time, This one, at The Bay School in San Francisco, is open to registered Young Makers only. The theme of that meeting is Exhibition. You can read more tantalizing details about the Bay School Young Makers meeting here.
Next Saturday, April 20, Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science hosts their last Open Make @ the Hall of the spring on the theme of Tiny: “Bring your little things and get inspired by the big impact your mini-creations can have.”This event coincides with a campus-wide Cal Day. Jennifer Jordan-Wong of the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse upcycles mint tins. The Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network will help you make your own gummy capsule, play with smart metals, make a liquid crystal sensor, and experiment with superhydrophobic surfaces. Finally, Sam Burden cleans up NISE’s gummy capsules with some hungry, robotic cockroaches.
Both museums offer free museum admission on Open Make days for themselves and one adult mentor for registered Young Makers. Additional family members get into the museum at the group rates.
Whether you can come to an event this weekend (or next) or not…
If you are a young maker interested in creating your own project to exhibit at Maker Faire this year or someday in the future, just fill out our registration form to get started.
Makerspaces are becoming more and more popular. If you are not familiar, a makerspace or hackerspace is a place for people to gather and make stuff. Each is pretty much unique, but they all share a sense of community and a joy for making things and sharing knowledge. However, even if you are lucky enough to live close to one, it may not be particularly kid-friendly. So, where should you take your young makers when they want a place to turn their ideas into reality with their own hands?
That’s an excellent question. So I did some research and here are five great places you can go with you kids to make things.
1: Home Improvement Centers
Race car project from a Home Depot workshop
Two of the largest home improvement brands in the United States are Home Depot and Lowe’s. Home Depot offers a new free Kid Workshop on the first Saturday of every month. The projects are generally designed for kids ages 5 to 12 years, and you can show up anytime from 9am-noon. Check the schedule on the Kids Workshops tab at their website.
Their first time, kids receive their own work apron, and they get a new pin with each project. I’ve attended a couple with my kids and they are lots of fun and pretty easy to complete within an hour. My son made a birdhouse the first time and then he and his younger sister made race cars the second time.
Lowe’s runs their own free kid clinics called Build and Grow. Unlike Home Depot, you will need to register your child to attend. I found the next two scheduled clinics are already filled up at all of the Lowe’s in my areas. So you will need to do some advanced planning for this one.
Ace Hardware also runs the Ace Kids Club. Register your child and they can come in to a participating Ace during the month of their birthday for a special surprise. You may find that your local Ace doesn’t support the program, but go ahead and ask if they do. Perhaps if there is enough local interest, they’d elect to join the program.
Also talk to your local hardware store, building supply and or home improvement center. You are less likely to find regular workshops there, but you never know until you ask. A local business owner might like the idea of bringing traffic to his or her store by running a workshop.
2: Craft Stores
Michaels Kid Classes
Michaels offers crafting classes for kids that vary in topic and age range. Costs are from free to inexpensive, depending on the class. Many listed at my local Michaels were only $2. The Duck Tape Class was the most expensive this month at a mere $15. Michaels also offers a Kids Camp in the summer or you can throw a birthday party where the kids do crafts.
Another large craft chain, A.C. Moore offers hands-on demonstrations and “Make & Take” projects. A.C. Moore also lets you schedule your own craft party. Check your local store for a schedule and to see what classes are available. Not all locations have specific classes for kids.
Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores offer classes for kids and teens. Their “Simple Sunday Make It-Take” classes are available at all stores, except Paramus, NJ. Sorry, Paramus.
You may find a local or regional craft store offering kids classes like Pat Catan’s Craft Centers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana.
3: Museums and Science Centers
Making an Engineer’s Cap at a local Children’s Museum
My kids and I love science centers and kids museums. We visit new ones whenever we can. If you don’t have a big center or museum near you, consider including one in your next family vacation.
If you live in a major metropolitan area, you may have a world class science center or children’s museum available to you. Many have hands-on activities, so check their schedules. My family just attended an overnight “Camp-In” at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia with our local Cub Scout pack. The event included a “Design Quest” challenge where kids were encouraged to experience the design-build-test-redesign cycle by completing a series of three challenges. I was so proud when my daughter’s design for a vehicle that would float in a wind tube worked perfectly on the first try.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a major museum near you. Try looking in your local paper or searching online for museums close to you. You might be surprised.
A couple of years ago, I was randomly searching the web for things to do with my kids when I found there was a small, volunteer run children’s museum just ten minutes away from our house! I had lived in my town for years and I never knew it was there. We’ve since been there quite a few times, and I have even taught a couple of kids’ robotics classes there myself. Smaller museums may have more limited choices, but they can also be very interesting, are usually inexpensive, and they help support your local community.
OK, this is a bit of a catch-all. For the previous categories, I tried to include specific recommendations or links to places that many readers will have access to. My research didn’t find places like that for this category, so you’ll have to do your own legwork. Hopefully, one or more of these ideas will spark an interest. There are lots of possibilities, below are just a few.
Try a paint-your-own-ceramics place where you can decorate unglazed pottery and they will fire it for you to pick up later. A web search for ‘paint your own pottery’ or ‘paint your own ceramics’ should net you some results. If you are really adventurous find a place where you can “throw pots” on a potters wheel.
See if you can find a cooking class for your kids. You might find anything from a single session monster cookie making activity to a full program like the Kids Cook! Summer Camp in Baltimore. Check online reviews before you book a class, as prices, class content and quality are sure to vary.
Check out places with art programs like Time for Art in Cary, NC, Gabriel’s Art Kids in Bellingham, WA, or Kids-N-Art in Frisco, TX. There are art programs for kids in many cities, including workshops, summer camps, and classes. If your kid is a budding artist, see if there’s a program near you that fits their needs and your budget.
There are a growing number of businesses that have some flavor of educational enhancement. Many of these may offer excellent opportunities for building and learning, like the Kaleidoscope Learning Center in Blairstown, NJ. Some are focused on child care, but also happen to have good educational content. Others may be private pre-schools, or alternative education centers that cater to home-schoolers or offer pre- or after-school programs. What I need to say here is, do your research. There are many great learning centers out there, but they are not all equal. Beware of child care centers that are just trying to service the maximum number of kids and are not focused on their content.
5: Makerspaces and Hackerspaces
Reuseum’s Robots Rising Workshop
Let’s bring this topic full circle. While hackerspaces and makerspaces aren’t so mainstream as to be easily available to all, they are out there. Some of them are kid friendly or have kid friendly events.
Many private makerspaces and hackerspaces are just not set up for kids. Some are concerned with increased liability for having people under 18 in the building. Others may just have an “adult atmosphere” that doesn’t cater to the younger set. However, there are exceptions. The Makery in New York City organizes pop-up makerspaces with youth oriented workshops and classes. The Reuseum in Boise, ID is a warehouse offering science, industry and government surplus items for sale. They also host workshops on building robots, using sensors, programming Arduino, and 3D printing.
I found a growing number of public libraries offering a makerspace with programs designed just for kids, like the Make It Yourself program at the Piscataway Public Library. I think this is a wonderful way to re-invigorate our public library system. The Westport Public Library in Connecticut is another pioneer in library makerspaces. I found articles indicating that other libraries were leaning this way, including this piece about funding received by the Anythink Brighton Library to build a teen makerspace.
Let’s not forget the oldest established, permanent floating makerspace in the world, Maker Faire! There are big events each year in the San Francisco Bay area, Detroit, and New York City. However, hundreds of mini-Maker Faires have been established throughout the United States and now all over the world. If you have never been to one, you owe it to yourself and your kids to check one out.
This isn’t a definitive list, or even a top-five list. I also have no doubt that more and more opportunities for making will become available as the maker movement grows. In the meantime, I hope you discovered some new resources in reading this. If you have found some interesting and exciting places for your kids to express the maker in them, please share in the comments for everyone’s benefit!
Tony, Carlos, and Raul, students at Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland, have taken on an ambitious senior project they plan to exhibit at Maker Faire: converting a gas-powered truck to electric power. They’ve been working afterschool and weekends and already gave up at least one holiday to work on the conversion. These young men exemplify the self-motivation we see in so many maker projects.
About a week after they began, the team discussed with their teacher, Aaron Vanderwerff, what it would take to convert not just a go-kart, but a real car to electric that would then be legally drivable on the roads.
“That’s when they decided that they were in,” Aaron told me. “Tony said that he hadn’t been excited about school this year, but that this project reinvigorated him–and his teachers agreed, that he was actually trying harder in his other classes because the school was supporting him in doing something he was personally interested in.”
Soon after that conversation, they decided they wanted to convert a truck they could use to pick up materials and transport projects for their school’s makerspace, so now the project has a wider community impact … and support!
The team works in one of the roomier parking spaces in the school’s lot. Their mentors, adults in the community, excited and willing to share their time and expertise with these highly motivated high-schoolers, lend a hand in many ways, from helping them figure out how to weld the frame to connecting people who might donate materials or batteries to get the truck running. More recently they have worked with mentors to weld the hinges onto the bed so that the bed can swing up and they can put batteries underneath. One of the students, Carlos, took the initiative to sign up for a two-day welding class at The Crucible in the fall, which is definitely paying off: Carlos’ welding mentor told him that he’s already doing a great job!
Their biggest need now, however, is funding or in-kind donations to cover the components they need for the conversion. The cheapest battery pack they could find runs $5,000, while the charger will be another $2,000 and the adapter plate that connects the electric motor to the transmission costs $1,100. Plus they need a lot of extra costs to make the used truck they found safe and drive-able. Add it up and they are looking at a $15k budget, which is a lot of money for most 18-year-olds.
Tony and his teammates are taking the EV truck conversion one step at a time. He shared that their biggest challenge currently is “getting someone to make us a adapter plate to mate the electric motor and transmission or someone who can give us a discount on a plate if the school buys it.”
But Tony is also looking at the big picture, beyond the truck. He told me, “Taking on this conversion is important to me because it will help me know what I can do as a future career and it can open more doors to other jobs, whether it be converting cars to electric or working on motors, whatever has to do with cars–I’m up for it.”
Tony’s advice to other young makers is to “start by looking at videos online, and just see the craziest thing they find so interesting. Or do something that they have been wanting to do for the longest, but never has the motivation to start it and just take a lot of junk that he or she knows will help in the build and put things together with tape, glue or nails, just mock up a prototype.”
When Tony, Carlos, and Raul finish the truck conversion, they’ll drive their makerspace classmates’ projects down to Maker Faire and then bring it back to scavenge and supply materials for future makerspace projects. This project plugs right in to a larger initiative across all students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade to create a multi-age, multi-use, cross-curriculum Makerspace to Lighthouse Community Charter School.