There. I said it. I never thought I would. Growing up, I had ZERO interest in Legos.
As an adult, I’ve continued to have ZERO interest in Legos.
Until a couple of years ago.
It turns out that Legos are a lot more versatile than I thought.
I briefly related my newfound respect for Legos in one of the posts I did for my Maker Space Essential Series. If you do a search on my blog, you will find plenty of other posts related to Legos.
Since this is the National Week of Making in the United States, I thought I would curate a few more resources for you that offer opportunities to use Legos for more than just following the instructions in the box.
Don’t have your own Legos? Well, you might have great success, as I did, just asking for donations. Or, you could always make your own, like this student did on his home 3D printer to make a gift for me. (He made the green ones.)
Yep. I used to think the only way Legos could make me cry would be to embed themselves in the bottom of my bare feet at inopportune moments.
Now they make a different kind of impression on me.
According to the White House, the United States is celebrating a “National Week of Making” from 6/12-6/18 this year. A National Maker Faire was held in Washington, D.C., on the 12th and 13th, and people all of the country are sharing ideas with the #nationofmakers hashtag. You can go to this link to get ideas on ways to engage in making.
As many of you know, I am a huge proponent of the “maker movement” – especially within our schools. It’s good to see it getting this kind of attention for the 2nd year in a row.
For a list of makers who participated in the National Maker Faire, check out this page. You will see new ideas and new people that you might want to reach out to for “maker” advice.
Okay. Full Disclosure – George Clooney is one of my favorite actors. But I promise that is not the reason I chose to mention the “Create Tomorrowland XPrize Challenge” on this blog even though George Clooney happens to be the star of the movie this contest is promoting.
I haven’t seen the movie, and I don’t know a lot about the contest, other than what can be read on the website. However, if you know a child between 8 and 17 years of age who has an inventive imagination, you may want to investigate this opportunity. The contest asks for videos, images, or stories that envision a beneficial invention that might exist in our future.
You can see specific entry guidelines here. Don’t forget to visit the “Idea Portal” for some real-world examples of people who are working to shape a better future for all of us.
Submissions are due by 5/17/15 – so don’t procrastinate! Who knows what life-saving ideas might be hibernating in the mind of a student, just waiting for the right circumstances to be revealed?
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.
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.
For today’s entry into this year’s Gifts for the Gifted series (every Friday in November and December) I am recommending the 3Doodler. This 3D printing pen has come a long way since I first received the Kickstarter version around a year ago.
If you know a child who loves to create, then this could be a fabulous gift. At $99 you can currently get a great deal – the pen plus 50 strands of plastic. Although $99 may sound like a lot, it is significantly cheaper than a 3D Printer. Also, a computer is not required in order to start making your designs.
The 3Doodler works somewhat like a glue gun. You stick the plastic in one end, and it heats up. As you squeeze the button, the melted plastic comes out and you can direct it into the shape you like. The plastic cools relatively quickly, but I wouldn’t recommend touching it with bare fingers for about 30 seconds.
Because of the heat involved, the 3Doodler is not suitable for young children. I had students as young as 9 using it in my classroom last year with supervision, but would not suggest it for anyone younger. My daughter, who was 11 when we received it, used it with dexterity, but we both accidentally touched the hot part a couple of times. Using it also requires some perseverance and self-control that come with maturity, as it takes some practice to develop the techniques that will allow you to form the designs you imagine.
Since its Kickstarter campaign, 3Doodler has added a few more accessories, which include a stand, a pedal option that allows you to control the pen with your feet, and a set of different nozzles. It is also available in many more retail stores. In addition to purchasing it online, you can find it at Michael’s and Best Buy plus 10 other stores in the United States.
I would suggest that beginners start with some of the stencils provided on the 3Doodler site. The community offers many ideas, but don’t get too caught up in making what is already posted. Be creative!
You may already be familiar with Goldieblox toys. I’ve featured a couple of them on this blog. I recently visited their site, and they’ve added quite a few more products to their selection – all with the aim of getting children, especially girls, interested in engineering. One of the kits available for purchase is “Goldieblox and the Movie Machine“, which includes pieces and directions for creating a zoetrope. The company has released a free app to complement this product, but you don’t need to purchase the kit to get a lot of fun out of the app.
Our Maker Club has transitioned from making cardboard games to making movies, and one of the apps the students explored last week was Goldieblox and the Movie Machine. They quickly figured out what they needed to do to create their own short animations, and they were too busy having fun to ask for help from me. The club is still testing out different options for movie creation, so we haven’t worked our way up to making final products, but I think this app will definitely be a contender for most popular movie-making tool (along with the Lego Movie Maker app).
If you do happen to have the actual kit, then you can use the app to print out your drawings to put in the zoetrope. However, this is certainly not mandatory, as you can watch your video play on the iPad just as easily.
I definitely recommend that you add this to the list of apps from which students can select for sharing their learning. They could, for example, make a video of the life cycle of a butterfly or portray how a character changed in a novel. I’m sure you can think of many more ways to integrate it with academics!
This week’s Phun Phriday post comes from an article I read on laughingsquid.com by Rebecca Escamilla. She wrote about the short video, “Desire to Fly,” which features artist Samantha Bryan as she demonstrates and explains her process for creating fairies and the important machines they need to do their work. Bryan’s creations are exquisite and delightful, and it’s fascinating to watch as she stitches and solder pieces together to create these one-of-a-kind fairy sculptures. One of my favorite quotes from the artist is, “Being an inventor in this sense is a little like being a storyteller.” When you look at her work, you can probably imagine all sorts of stories about the fairies and their adventures. Surely a picture book and full-length movie are in these fairies’ future…