Last weekend I was fortunate enough to spend time at the TIES conference in Minneapolis. I signed up for a Saturday workshop about “iPads and the early learner,” but realized later that it was geared toward iPad newbies. I quickly went with a second choice and switched to Making Rocks (where we did not, in fact, make rocks – which is what I thought it would be when I read the title) with @tbrass.
Life changed, mind blown.
Prior to this day I was into the maker movement in theory. I had read Invent to Learn, I’m helping to plan a Maker Showcase (May 3, in case you’re wondering), and I bought my son a MakeyMakey for Christmas without actually knowing what it was. But this was the first time I really MADE something.
Step 2 was to sit down and try it out.
But there was a problem. I didn’t know what to do. I sat down next to the box and stared at it. I grabbed some dough and made a ball. And stared. Even though I had all these great anecdotes in my head, all the reading and theory behind it, I was afraid to make. I was afraid to try and fail, and I was afraid that I would break something. So one of the instructors sat down next to me and pointed out that as long as I didn’t touch the red wire and the black wire together and fry the battery, I couldn’t mess anything up. And I began plugging things in. But if you watch the video I linked, I mostly just copied what Sylvia did.
Success! Sort of. I didn’t make anything new. But I did understand how the circuit worked. So I moved on to the station that had Bare Conductive paint. This one came with step by step instructions.
Here you can see the tree I colored, and the line I painted with conductive paint, which should be activated by the switch (the black square to the right of the tree). The instructions were simple. Push switch down, tree lights up. FAIL. Mine didn’t work. I walked away.
Next I went to the MakeyMakey station. If you’ve never tried this, you need to. The video is cool, but actually hooking grapes up to your computer to operate as the controls? Umm… coolest thing ever! I can’t wait until Christmas so I can play with this with my kids.
Add some more paint, try to fix my Christmas tree. Nothing. Moving on!
The 3Doodler? Okay! I ordered one of these back in October (it will hopefully ship in February). Now I get to play with one. No fear this time! My awesome team member Mike is really into STEM and 3D printing, so I thought I’d make him his very own name plate for Christmas. I guess I ruined the surprise, but that’s okay. Here’s what I 3D printed by hand:
Back to my tree. Okay. So it still doesn’t work, but I sat down and played with it, and what I can tell you is that the problem is in the switch. When the LED is attached below the switch, it lights up. So it is not the LED and it is not the battery. Something in the connection is off and the current is not getting from the battery at the bottom to the LED at the top. I can deal with that. I didn’t have the time to fix it and keep trying, but knowing what’s wrong is good enough for me. Besides, this in itself was a victory. I failed, and I kept trying until I figured out what was wrong, and how I could fix it! And I can explain to you in terms of electricity what is happening! I couldn’t say that a week ago!
Next up? Tinkercad! Yep, they had a Makerbot and we used Tinkercad to design a product that we got to print! I had to do mine rather quickly, but I was able to create my product before the end of the day. Tinkercad is an awesome, fairly easy to learn, free program. My design took me about 20 minutes to complete.
Finally, there was a station for Scratch. I didn’t have enough time to get to the Scratch station on Saturday, but I was signed up for a 1/2 day session on Sunday. Since schools had just completed the Hour of Code challenge, we worked through that. The challenge was to create a holiday card using Scratch. Here’s mine:
It’s not fancy, but I did it in about an hour and a half, start to finish – creating my Scratch account to publishing my work (and listening to instruction and asking questions, of course).
So why would I share all this?
Well first of all, because how cool are these things?!
But second of all, if I could do all this in a matter of a few hours (5ish), imagine what our kids could build in create with some real class time? We could have kids coding story lines and plots for English class, 5 year olds building flashing, buzzing play-doh creations, students combining the tools to create something new, developing games, 3D printing art and new tools, the possibilities are endless! And with the exception of the 3D printer (around $2000), all of the things above are under $100. And all of the design software was free!
It’s time to make. It’s time to play. It’s time to learn. These things don’t exist in silos. Go!