Spintronics

Way back in 2017, I blogged about a new project I had backed on Kickstarter called Turing Tumble. The game is a mechanical version of a computer, and includes a book with stories and challenges that slowly scaffold the working parts of computers. My students and I liked it so much that I reviewed it on the blog and recommended for my Gifts for the Gifted list in 2018.

Paul Boswell, inventor of Turing Tumble, has a new venture on Kickstarter. The project is called Spintronics, and it is designed to help children (and adults) to learn how electronics work by building mechanical circuits. Like Turing Tumble, Spintronics includes a book of stories and challenges. Without having to risk hot soldering irons or engage in complicated mathematical equations, students can learn the basics and vocabulary of electronics as they build, experiment, and play.

I literally received the e-mail announcing the beginning of the Kickstarter today, and Spintronics is already fully funded – more than 5 times over! So, the good news is that you should be able to receive a kit if you back it. The downside is that you will need to wait until January, 2022, to start playing the game. However, as I learned with Turing Tumble, it is sure to be worth the wait!

Unlocking Design Thinking

Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec) has been tweeting some very helpful graphics for Design Thinking, using the hashtag #unlockingdesignthinking.  I asked his permission to post the ones for Ideate (Brainstorming) on here, as that is often one of the most difficult phases for my students, and I really like his suggestions.

Here are his two Ideate posters close up:

created by Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec)

I love the two strategies above, which I’ve never used with students before, to extend their thinking once they’ve generated possible solutions.

 

created by Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec)

I have more about the SCAMPER method here.  For some additional suggestions to encourage brainstorming in your class, you can also refer to this post.

If you like these posters, and would like to see the rest in the series, search for #unlockingdesignthinking on Twitter, and be sure to follow @gregkulowiec.  I will be doing a guest post for another site in March on “How to Use Design Thinking in the Classroom”, so stay tuned for more details!

Beauty and the Bolt

According to its vision statement, “Beauty and the Bolt, centered on the idea that Brilliant is Beautiful, aims to make learning engineering easy, inexpensive, and accessible for anyone.”  With that goal in mind, Beauty and the Bolt has: a blog post that lists women who teach STEM on YouTube, a map to find makerspaces around the world, and some fun STEM merchandise.  There are also a few STEM lesson plans.  One of the most expansive resources Beauty and the Bolt offers is its video channel on YouTube, with over 50 DIY and educational videos.

My favorite piece of merchandise on the Beauty and the Bolt site is a 2020 calendar called, “Princesses with Power Tools.”   The calendar features 12 inspiring women who are involved in STEM careers, creatively and colorfully photographed as princesses.  Unfortunately, the site states that it is sold out.  I sent an e-mail to find out if it will become available again, and will update this post if I learn any more details.

Image by RAEng_Publications from Pixabay

Making Across the Curriculum

Making Across the Curriculum is a Google Site created by Rob Morrill on which he has curated ideas for “making” that integrate with different subjects.  If you click on the link for “Project Ideas by Class,” you will find suggestions such as “Loominous Literature” for English and “Living Hinges” for Engineering.  Some of the project ideas are repeated in different curriculum areas, as they are open-ended enough to accommodate numerous interpretations.  Although Morrill designed this site for his school staff, you may find some project ideas for your content area here.

Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

Using Zorro Astuto

In the last two posts, I’ve talked about our “makerspace” at Advanced Learning Academy, Zorro Astuto Studio, and how we have incorporated a new badging system.  Today I wanted to give an overview of how the space is used.

ALA at Fox Tech serves students in grades 4-12.  Zorro Astuto is located on the 3rd floor, where we currently house grades 6-12.  Our goal is to give all of our students access in some way to this unique area for creation.  Because there are many tools that need training and supervision, this can be a bit tricky.

The first way that we give students access is through classes they can take.  Grades 4/5 have are currently doing a 3d design class using Tinkercad (1/2 are doing it first semester, and 1/2 will do it next semester).  They are taking the classes in another room, but will be learning how to use the 3d printers that we have in Zorro Astuto and one that is in their wing.

6th and 7th graders can choose from 9 week electives that we are offering such as: Intro to Design Lab, Carpentry, Robotics, 3d Design, and Electronics.

8th-12th graders can also choose from these electives, which also utilize tools in Zorro Astuto in Project Based Learning activities: Principles of Applied Engineering, Principles of Arts, and Engineering Design and Presentation.

The second way students may use Zorro Astuto is through interdisciplinary projects within their other classes. ALA offers Genius Hour, Wonder Courses, Tech Theater, and opportunities within core subjects to create artifacts that often involve fabrication on all levels.  In addition, we offered several “Teacher Tool-Ups” at the end of last school year to introduce some of the tools to teachers so they could consider possibilities for future Project Based Learning products.

And, lastly, we have Open Studio time twice a week after school.  For an hour and a half on Mondays and Thursdays, students who have signed Safety Contracts can come to Zorro Astuto to make whatever they want from the scraps we have.  Whether they are in a registered class or not, they are welcome to get certified on our tools and to use them for passion projects or school assignments.

In these ways, we hope that every student at ALA is inspired to learn and create.  As most teachers know, technology and required skills may change over time, but problem solving and creativity will always be needed.

 Image by digitalskennedy from Pixabay]

Zorro Astuto Studio

My colleague, Kat Sauter, and I teach in what used to be the Cosmetology classroom at Fox Tech High School.  In the newly formed Advanced Learning Academy (this is its 4th year), our room has become known as “The Makerspace.”  Kat and I felt like this generic term, which has come to mean many things to many people, did not quite fit our learning environment.  We set about to rebrand it.

The building where we are housed was named after the principal who was a strong advocate for technical and vocational education, Louis Fox.  In honor of him and our shared beliefs in hands-on, place-based learning, we decided to call our space, “Zorro Astuto Studio.”  “Zorro” means “fox” in Spanish.  “Astuto” means “clever or crafty.”  We think it fits our program perfectly.

After much blood, sweat, and possibly a few words of mild profanity, Kat and I got one room of the studio repainted before school started.  With the help of Kat’s sister-in-law, our larger room is almost done.  Students who used the space last year have been very complimentary about all of the changes we’ve made.  We  have several areas that showcase past student projects – such as 3d printed Fiesta medals, skateboards, and inspirational signs – but we are also trying to leave room for future ones as well.

So, what’s happening in this transformed space?  Stay tuned to this blog, our Twitter account (@StudioZorro), and our Instagram (@StudioZorro) for more on how our students in grades 4-12 will be using this space to create!