Tag Archives: STEAM

Gifts for the Gifted – Bare Conductive Touch Board

 A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students. You may notice that I missed 2019, but I’m making up for it this year with a post every Thursday in November and December up until Christmas Eve.

Last year, we were able to get a grant in our Maker Space for some Bare Conductive Touch Boards and paint (there are smaller tubes of paint if you prefer). One of the choices for students’ final engineering projects in my class was to create a work of art that integrated the touch board and paint. I just scoured my Google Photos archive and, for some reason, have no video of the final projects in action 😦 Here are pics of the artwork and the back of their canvases, though.

The black paint that you see in the mariachi and country pictures is conductive. The concept was to attach the sound board to the back and connect the black paint with copper tape to the sound board. But, as you can see in the bottom picture, the copper tape was not being cooperatively sticky enough so one of the students ended up soldering wires to it instead. (Soldering is not mandatory; we just wanted to make it more durable.) We made hinged frames for the canvases to enclose the speakers and touch board but allow us to turn them on/off and change batteries if needed. The mariachi instruments played music based on which instrument you touched, and the countries played their anthems. (That group was fascinated with countries of the Cold War.)

Don’t let the over-complexity of the project scare you off. I tend to imagine projects that leave out a few minor details in in my initial drafts. What’s cool about the Bare Conductive Touch Board is that it is actually easy to use. There is a little Micro SD card for you to add your sounds, and you probably want to attach a cheap speaker (I got these at Target for $3) that has a microphone jack so you can hear it. As you can see, we also gave it a battery, but you can alternatively just attach it to your laptop, depending on your project. Here is a step-by-step intro to the board that shows you how easy it is to get it working. There are also instructions for making a midi piano.

I was first inspired to look into doing a project like this when I saw this video. For those of you who have used or seen the Makey Makey (a past Gifts for the Gifted recommendation), you can see that this takes the potential just a bit further.

If you have a child/student who loves to create art and would be interested in attaching sound to it, this is a unique gift that they would definitely enjoy.

Which Door Will the Ball Hit?

The Kid Should See This tweeted the link to this great video, “Which Door Will the Ball Hit?” so I think it’s only fair to send you to their link to read more about it.  I adore this idea from Joseph Herscher of using Rube Goldberg-type machines to make video puzzles, and I think it would be an excellent “hook” to show students before asking them to design their own.  To get some practice before they design their first prototypes, they could play the Bubble Ball app, Goldburger to Go, or this game on Engineering.com.

You can also view more of my Rube Goldberg posts here.  And, if your students enjoy puzzle videos, the TED Ed riddle videos are great.  (My students were big fans of the River Crossing Riddle.)

Dominoes
Image by SparrowsHome from Pixabay

Math Art Challenge

Math Art Challenge caught my eye the other day when I saw a tweet from its organizer, Annie Perkins (@anniek_p), about the most recent challenge, “Mandalas,” authored by Siddhi Desai (@SiddhiDesai311).  Mandala projects used to be a student favorite in my gifted and talented classroom, and we have created them from all sorts of materials, such as the traditional sand ones and 3d printed ones.  The students also loved making digital mandalas, especially using words and kaleidoscopes of nature.  When I read Desai’s post, I was blown away by a video she included about the extraordinary mandalas that pufferfish make to attract their mates, and wish I could go back in time to show it to my students.

From the tweet from Perkins, I found that she has a page of Math Art Challenges, with 81 on there to this date!  I have always been fascinated by the intersection of math and art, so this collection is a goldmine to me.  Since I usually try to give specific resources on my posts in order not to overwhelm, I decided to recommend her challenge from Day 53, “Origami Firework From One Piece of Paper.”    This seems like an appropriate challenge for this particular holiday weekend, when viewing a real fireworks show is improbable for many due to the pandemic.

While you are visiting Annie’s site, I would also like to encourage you to go to this page, “Links to Resources on Not Just White Dude Mathematicians,” and the page for  “The Mathematician Project,” both of which promote inclusivity when it comes to math – and STEM in general.

Rangolis Stones Mandala
Image by Maitri Lens from Pixabay

Girls Who Code At Home Activities

Girls Who Code at Home is the perfect way to keep your young programmer happily engaged while social distancing.   So far, I count 14 free activities that can be downloaded, and the site promises a new one will be added every Monday.  You can register to be notified each time the page is updated.

The activities range from beginner to intermediate/advanced.  Different programming languages are used.  Some are even “unplugged” activities, meaning that you do not need to use a computer to do them.  Also, although Girls Who Code is an organization that was formed to narrow the gender gap, these resources are available for anyone who wants to use them.

The downloadable worksheets include a lot of scaffolding, so don’t be worried if you and your child/student are new to coding.  From making a digital memory book to designing a simple chatbot, you are sure to find an activity that will appeal to your interest and skill level!

Children Using Technology
Image by April Bryant from Pixabay

How to S.T.E.A.M. Up Distance Learning

In my third article for the NEO Blog, which was published today, I give a detailed look at how S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. instruction can be accomplished remotely.  The article has links to many resources, so you will likely find at least one new helpful tool somewhere in the post.  You can read, “How to S.T.E.A.M. Up Distance Learning” here.

My previous NEO articles have been: How Distance Learning Fosters Global Collaboration, and How to Use Design Thinking in the Classroom.

Next month’s article will be, “Applying Universal Design for Learning in Remote Classrooms.”  As always, I would love reader input on this topic.  If you have any resources or examples that would be helpful, please comment on this post!

STEAM Up Distance Learning
Image by janrye from Pixabay

Graspable Math

I’ve been in the process of gathering recommended tools and strategies for distance learning, and bookmarked a spreadsheet started by Fawn Nguyen (@FawnPNguyen) where she is collecting “Distance Learning Best Practices for Maths.”  One of the resources entered on the sheet is Graspable Math.  Intrigued by the title, I decided to check out the website.

Graspable Math is a free website that allows students and teacher to manipulate the terms in algebraic equations easily online.  You can see how it works by going directly to the canvas, and typing in your own unsolved equation.  (Go to Insert – Math Expression.) Then, just click and drag to indicate each step you would go through as you attempt to solve it.  A neat feature of Graspable Math is that only the results of your most recent step will show on the canvas.  However, at any time you can click the handle on the right side and drag it down to show any or all of the previous steps as well.

Here is the short video that was included on Nguyen’s spreadsheet that summarizes Graspable Math:

Once you are ready to create assignments (there are specific lessons on the site you can use if you need help getting started), head over to this page for a quick tutorial on how to design lessons for your classes.

For those of you who are elementary teachers with students who may be ready to move on to algebraic thinking, Graspable Math also has a projects page that includes interactive games that scaffold the topic.  One of the games is specifically appropriate for elementary students.

Whether using an interactive whiteboard at school or teaching remotely, educators will find that Graspable Math is a nice way for students to demonstrate their understanding of algebra.

mathematics-1509559_1920
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay