Tag Archives: maker space

Makerspace Essentials – Legos

I am frequently asked for advice on what materials to purchase for school maker spaces.  I am definitely not an expert on this topic, but I have gotten a couple of grants for B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters) that have allowed me to try out different products.  I thought I would devote this week to sharing about a few items that I have judged to be well worth the money.

(If you intend to apply for a grant for a school maker space, be sure to research your district’s policies on spending grant money.  If you need to use approved vendors, then you should verify that you will be able to purchase the items you propose and that the vendor will accept your district’s preferred method of payment.)

Maker Space Essentials Legos

Legos may seem like a no-brainer when it comes to maker space essentials, but it actually took me awhile to realize that we needed to add them to our inventory.  There were a couple of reasons I resisted their inclusion:

  • Many of my students have Legos at home, so there seemed to be no point in offering them at school as well,
  • I’m an idiot.

My students have been working with Lego robots for a few years, so I didn’t see the need for any additional tiny pieces ending up on the floor waiting to ambush me.  And, to be honest, I kind of got stuck on the kit part of Legos, which didn’t seem like the best outlet for creativity.

We added a few last year because some of my students wanted to do a Lego stop-motion film for Genius Hour.  The small box of Legos a parent donated seemed like plenty to me.

But then we kept getting robots that included Lego adapters and students kept asking, “Where are the Legos?” and our pitiful supply did not impress them, and I finally gave in and sent out an all-call to parents and staff for more Lego donations.

Legos, like cardboard boxes, are ubiquitous, it seems.  Before I knew it, we had several bins of Legos, donated by parents and teachers who were grateful to re-home them, and my students were happily digging through the pieces to find the perfect accessories for their robots. (I’ll be talking more about the robots in tomorrow’s post.)

Some of the robots, like Sphero, don’t even come with Lego adapters.  Yet my students managed to find a way to create a Sphero chariot with the donated Legos.  The slideshow below shows Legos with Cubelets and Edison also.

 

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If you don’t have robots or the materials to do stop-motion, here are some other ideas for using Legos in a maker space:

The Lego Education page has more information on their robotics kits and other products designed specifically for schools.

Click here for a list of Lego-related posts I have done in the past.

For more maker space ideas, here is my Pinterest Board.

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Makerspace Essentials – littleBits

UPDATE (10-7-15): littleBits now offers Educator Resources!

I am frequently asked for advice on what materials to purchase for school maker spaces.  I am definitely not an expert on this topic, but I have gotten a couple of grants for B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters) that have allowed me to try out different products.  I thought I would devote this week to sharing about a few items that I have judged to be well worth the money.

(If you intend to apply for a grant for a school maker space, be sure to research your district’s policies on spending grant money.  If you need to use approved vendors, then you should verify that you will be able to purchase the items you propose and that the vendor will accept your district’s preferred method of payment.)

Maker Space Essentials

littleBits are modules that snap together magnetically to make circuits.  The colors help to distinguish between output and input modules, and there are endless combinations to be made with over 60 modules in their library.  You can see an introduction to the product here.

image from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LittleBits2.jpg
image from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LittleBits2.jpg

littleBits offers a variety of kits, and gives discounts to educators.  If you are unable to purchase directly through littleBits due to vendor approval complications, you can also often find their kits on Amazon.com.

If you browse through the lessons page on the site, you will get an idea of the unlimited creativity and learning that these pieces potentially provide. Math, science, and storytelling are all included in this curriculum gallery.

When we first got our littleBits set, I found these Task Cards that help to introduce some of the basic pieces.  They were great for me to learn how the modules worked.  However, most of my students preferred to figure it out on their own.  You might want to try these Challenge Cards instead.  If you like those, here are some more.  Of course, you need to make sure the challenges match the supplies you are providing as different kits offer different modules.

Organizing your littleBits can be a challenge.  I’ve seen some librarians mention that they have a “littleBits Bar” with plastic drawer organizers that sit on the table.  I was thrilled when littleBits offered this Tackle Box on their site – perfect for separating hundreds of tiny pieces.  One maker space presenter at TCEA advised us not to get “hung up” on labeling all of the littleBits containers.  As long as the students organize them by type so the next users can easily find them, that should suffice.

Ayah Bdeir, an engineer and founder of littleBits, gave a TED Talk about her product in 2012.  She speaks about how her product helps students to make sense of the world.  “The nicest thing is how they start to understand the electronics around them from every day that they don’t learn at schools. For example, how a nightlight works, or why an elevator door stays open,or how an iPod responds to touch.”

If you are given the opportunity to purchase littleBits for your classroom, library, and/or maker space, I definitely recommend them!

For more maker space resources, check out my Pinterest Board, “Make.”

Challenge Boxes

This week (except for yesterday when I was feeling a little too imprisoned by my self-imposed commitment) I am going to dedicate my posts to sharing resources I learned about at TCEA in Austin last week.  I think packing too much info into a blog post is overwhelming, so if you are craving more, feel free to check out my notes (which are not finished yet!) here.

There were multiple sessions on Maker Spaces at TCEA this year.  If you go to the notes I linked to above, you can find even more info on Maker Space sessions I attended. (It has a special tab on the spreadsheet.)

One of the sessions was presented by Katie Hollis, Marisa Vickery, and Lindsey Mahany who have seriously The. Best. Job titles. Ever. They are “Facilitators for Learning and Innovation” in Dripping Springs ISD.  Cool, right?

The trio presented several sessions, and you can find the links to all of them here.  In the interest of brevity, I’m going to limit this post to one idea out of the many that I loved: Challenge Boxes.

Not every school has a “space” for making.  Even when a school does have extra room, not every child necessarily has the luxury of time to spend in that space.  So, one way to tackle this is to have Challenge Boxes available for checkout.  These plastic boxes (which Lindsey bought at Ikea, I believe) are each packed with low-cost or recycled materials and contain Challenge Cards with assignments that range from making a door opener to designing a spool racer.

The F.L.I. girls (even cooler, right?!!!) were kind enough to provide a link to a folder with all of the necessary paperwork – labels for the boxes, response cards, and 20 different Challenge Cards.

Teachers could check out these boxes for individuals or small groups in their classroom.  They could be a center – or several different centers.

If you have any questions about Challenge Boxes, head on over to the F.L.I. girls’ site where you can find their contact info and much more!

Also, I have a Pinterest Board about Maker Spaces here.

Challenge Box Card example from the F.L.I. Girls
Challenge Box Card example from the F.L.I. Girls

B.O.S.S. HQ Update

Last school year, it occurred to me that the empty classroom next door would better serve our campus as a Maker Space.  I applied for a couple of grants to get some supplies, and my GT students helped me learn more about the new products – from Cubelets to Little Bits.  They also came up with the name for the space – B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters).

The goal has always been to open the space up to all of the students at our school.  But it has been a slow process – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I’ve realized that “beta testing” B.O.S.S. with different groups has helped to refine the best way to structure the space and give students access to the materials.  Without someone dedicated full-time to running B.O.S.S., there are a couple of “hacks” that I’ve made to the typical Maker Space structure to make it more successful.  I thought I would list the steps taken so far in case anyone else who reads this is considering this type of venture.

This school year, a couple of other wonderful educators joined me in creating a Maker Club.  It consists of 24 students, 2nd-4th grades, who meet once a week after school.  We started the year making games for our Cardboard Arcade, then moved into making movies. We are currently exploring robots, and getting ready for a Robot Olympics. Finally, we will be making electric circuits for the last couple of months.

The students in Maker Club can “earn” extra time in B.O.S.S.  I have opened it up one morning a week before school so the students can explore more.  Maker Club members can work a morning as helpers and monitors, which earns them time to come and make.  Some of them also earned time by doing a special project for me to help decorate B.O.S.S.  Before the holidays, I gave out 5 shopping bags – each filled with different materials, and charged the volunteers with creating something for our B.O.S.S. bulletin board.  They each had one word (Think, Make, Improve, Create, or Inspire) they had to use in their creations, but had no other rules.

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So, now we are up to 24 students who have regular access to B.O.S.S., plus 24 Robotics students who are using it right now, as well as my GT students who have “leveled up” to earn time in B.O.S.S.

But that’s not enough.

My next mission is to get some other students to come to our morning B.O.S.S. time.  So, I will be giving teachers B.O.S.S. passes that they can distribute at their discretion.  In addition, we are going to have a monthly B.O.S.S. Challenge for the school, for which students can make something to earn time in B.O.S.S.  (I’m currently looking for the best badging system to use for this.)

We are also going to have B.O.S.S. open to the teachers on our next Staff Development day so they can see what it has to offer.  Then they can either bring classes to the space, or check out materials to use in their own classes.

I’m slowly working out the details, and this obviously isn’t the way to do it in every situation.  Many school libraries are adding Maker Spaces, rather than having a separate room.  Schools like Brad Gustafson’s Greenwood Elementary are creating Mobile Maker Spaces.  If you would like to see some other resources, you can check out my “Make” Pinterest Board.

Global Cardboard Challenge 2014

Since many people are returning to school during the next couple of weeks, I thought I would re-visit and share some of last year’s more successful projects in case you want to try one.  Yesterday’s post was on the surprise “You Matter” videos that I asked parents to make for their children last year.

Since most standardized tests used to measure “success” in schools today do not assess creativity, this skill tends to be less emphasized than ones that easily translate into multiple choice questions. However, I haven’t met one person who thinks that creativity is frivolous and many articles I’ve read, such as this one, from various news sources seem to indicate that it is a valuable attribute in the 21st century job market.

That being said, it’s sometimes difficult to fit creative activities into the school day.  The Global Cardboard Challenge is the perfect opportunity to revive the imaginations of your students.  First, show them the fabulous Caine’s Arcade videos.  Then, get your students to brainstorm and sketch their own ideas.  Next, give them time and resources to build.  Then, let them critique and improve.  And, finally have them share their creations.

Cardboard Theater (with a scrolling moving picture) created by one of my 3rd graders
Cardboard Theater (with a scrolling moving picture) created by one of my 3rd graders

There is not one right way to do this.  It can be during school, after school, on a weekend.  You can do it big and invite the community, or you can do it small and just involve your class or grade level.  The official date for the 2014 challenge is October 11th, but you can do it any day you want.

Last year, I just had my GT students participate.  I gave them an hour or two each week for about 4 weeks to work on their projects.  (If you want to see students completely engaged with absolutely no interest in even talking you, I promise this is the activity to try!)  Then they designed their own tickets and invited classmates to see their projects during recess.  This year, we’re going bigger.  I will still have my GT students make projects, but I will also have an after school Maker Club.  The GT students will be researching charities and choosing one.  The school will vote on the best projects, and we are teaming up with Main Event to host a “Pop-Up Arcade” of the student projects in their party rooms, charging $1 for the community to play the games.  All money raised will go to the charity my students select.

For more ideas on how to host your own event, you can check out the Organizer Playbook here.  More information is located here.  But remember, you can “think outside the box” and make the event fit what suits you and your students.

TurtleArt Tiles

Yesterday, I featured a great series of images and video taken during a Maker Space event at a public library in Westport, Connecticut.  The man behind the event, Josh Burker, also has a great blog sharing other ideas for making.  The most recent entry caught my eye because it involves using “TurtleArt” and a 3D printer – two things with which I have little experience, but would like to know better.

Josh details an activity in which students use TurtleArt (similar to Logo programming) to create designs on the computer.  These designs are then used to make stamps with the 3D printer.  After practicing using the stamps on Play-Doh, the students stamp clay tiles and paint them to make amazing works of art.

The step-by-step process can be found on the post by Josh.  There are lots of photographs, and it seems fairly straightforward – even for a layperson like me.

I love this intersection of logic and creativity!

TurtleArt image from Josh Burker
TurtleArt image from Josh Burker
Final Clay Tile image from Josh Burker
Final Clay Tile image from Josh Burker

Yes, They Have No Bananas

One pretty standard piece of inventory in a Maker Space seems to be a product called MaKey MaKey.  I posted about the MaKey MaKey and its potential for creativity in April of this year.  If you ever see one demonstrated, chances are that someone will be using it to play a banana piano, or a Play-Doh piano, or even a human piano.  But there are far more uses than just as a piano.

I ran across this Flickr album posted by Josh Burker (@JoshBurker) that pretty much shows every instrument in the orchestra integrated with MaKey MaKey.  Josh had the opportunity to be the “Maker in Residence” for the Westport, Connecticut Public Library for a month this summer.  As you can see from his Flickr album and this video, you can do a lot with cardboard, conductive tape, MaKey MaKey, and Scratch – especially if you are a kid with an endless imagination and a bit of adult guidance.

My absolute favorite piece is the bird.  You will find a video on the 2nd page that details the creation of the bird and its numerous amazing abilities. The 11-year-old girl who came up with this brilliant device is as articulate as she is innovative.

I am really inspired to challenge my students to find a unique way to use the MaKey MaKey when we do this year’s Global Cardboard Challenge.  Since we only have one for our classroom, I plan to have a contest and whoever proposes the best idea will get to use it for their game.  Josh Burker’s collection of images will help the students to see the amazing potential of this tool.

image from: Josh Burker on Flickr
image from: Josh Burker on Flickr