Advanced Maker Ed Workshop for #SanAngeloMakers

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#SanAngeloMakers

Wanda Green of the Tom Green County Public Library asked me to offer an advanced maker education workshop in addition to a Makey Makey Teacher Certification workshop when I presented there earlier this summer. I designed this advanced workshop specifically for the resources available at the Tom Green County library system. This amazing library in West Texas not only has a fully stocked makerspace, but it has maker resources available for checkout to local educators.

Wake Up Challenges

To start the second day of making with #Sanangelomakers at the Tom Green County Public Library, I created wake up challenges to get educators associated with some very quick and informal learning tools like Strawbees, Keva planks, Dash and Dot, and using a homemade wind tunnel. (The first day was Tom Heck’s amazing Makey Makey workshop.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Educators really enjoyed these challenges because they instantly saw them as quick collaborative engineering projects for kids (the KEVA planks) or as a fun iterative design  intro with the wind tube. Check out these teachers and librarians playing and learning below.

During these warm up activities, I also shared my love of combining making and literacy. I just love having students build characters for stories with their hands as part of the wind tube activities. (Please go check out Angela Stockman’s Make Writing or Hacking the Writing Workshop for more ideas on this!)

Cardboard Exploration

Wanda also wanted me to share some low cost ideas since a lot of educators do not have specific funding for makerspaces and maker activities. I had educators explore cardboard techniques with this great cardboard attachment technique slideshow from the fabulous team at the Pinecrest schools in Florida. I was hoping these cardboard techniques could be used later in the day when we started exploring microcontrollers. (Because I think cardboard robots are a great intro to making!)

I also wanted to focus on cardboard cutting tools that educators could actually use in the classroom, so I brought an arrangement of tools. (I’m hoping to craft and curate a cardboard resource soon for other educators new to making. Watch this space!)

Toy Take Apart and Invention Literacy

Then my favorite part of the day was guiding educators through the parts, purposes, and complexities of animatronic toys. Our guiding theme for the day was still Invention Literacy (or learning how things works, so we can make new things.) I shared this video of Jay Silver from Makey Makey describing the concept:

If you want guidance with taking apart toys as a way of learning how things work, check out this super handy guide from Exploratorium’s Tinkering Studio. Also, don’t buy new toys for this, hit up local thrift stores, or see if department stores can donate broken toys. (Thanks to @mrsk8e for this last tip!)

Educators REALLY loved taking apart toys to see how they worked. One of my favorite moments from the workshop was when participants got up and shared how they assumed the toys worked and then how the toys actually worked once they dissected and looked at what was inside.

 

It seems that speaking with them about invention literacy, then following the Tinkering Studio Guide and having educators draw what they thought was inside the toy before dissecting, and then really drawing what was really inside got these educators into thinking about how these toys worked.

They were also excited about harvesting toys parts for new maker projects. Check out this post from Ryan Jenkins when he was at Tinkering Studio. We collected all the skins, stuffing, and guts in boxes for the teen librarians to use for a future Frankentoy workshop. Hacking toys is not only a great way to learn how things work, it’s an awesome experience in reusing and recycling materials.

Microcontroller Exploration

My plan was for educators to mash up cardboard or toys with microcontrollers after lunch. So I created exploration stations for Hummingbird Robotics and ScratchMicro:bit and MakeCode; and Makey Makey and Scratch. This exploration really helped teachers realize what they wanted their toys to do and made them realize that they needed to tinker with each controller to figure out which one would best suit their design needs. (Ironically, Bird Brain Tech announced the next week that they have a new Hummingbird kit that will now work with Micro:bit!)

Mashing it All Up

The microcontroller exploration after lunch went well even though most of these educators had no prior knowledge. What was super cool, was that after playing with the controller, almost everyone got their toys back out before I even gave them the challenge. They were stoked to give their toys a new life with their new skills. Most of the educators chose to hack their toys instead of building something with cardboard. (But it’s still really important to offer choice for learners that are new to these concepts!) One of the coolest things was how the act of toy hacking really hit the heart of invention literacy.

At one point, a teacher explained to me that a random electronic in a toy was a speaker because it had a magnet. At another, some ladies that were at first frustrated with the microcontrollers, were excited to learn that they could program a Makey Makey to work the same as they toy that they just hacked. They could use Scratch to program Makey Makey to make three different soundbites based on a “toy press” variable. They instantaneously learned how a toy worked that one of their grand children had, and how they could use that knowledge to make a new toy with Makey Makey and Scratch.  I compiled all of the learning from toy hacking that day in the video below:

At some point in the afternoon, I looked up and it was pretty much time to go and every one was still HEAVILY involved in still tinkering with their toys. I was like, ” Um…. it’s almost time to go, how long were ya’ll planning on staying?” Toy hacking was super engaging for these teachers new to making!

I think the success of this workshop not only goes to a lot of planning, but on the open-minded and playful nature of the educators in San Angelo, Tx! It was a blast showing them multiple avenues for playing and learning in an educational makerspace. I hope they will have me back soon.

For more info on upcoming workshops from me or Aaron Graves, please visit this page.

Review: Chibitronics Love to Code Creative Coding Kit

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Making Paper Circuits with Chibi Stickers

I’ve been a fan of Chibitronics since I learned that these sweet little circuit stickers existed! In 2015, I learned a lot about circuits alongside my Circuit Girls when my Donors Choose grant for the Circuit Sticker Notebook was funded. I became pretty obsessed with making paper circuits because I was able to learn some of the fundamentals of electronics with my own hands! This obsession moved to sewing circuits because suddenly, this complicated thing known as Arduino became accessible to me (see my For the Love of Arduino post.) I no longer needed to understand breadboarding, I could just build my own circuits with conductive thread. (And through the magic of meaningful making, I now understand breadboarding from crafting sewing circuit projects.)

But wait…Programmable Paper Circuits?!

Last year, I was lucky enough to get a couple of Jie’s new clippable Arduino prototypes- the Love to Code Chibi Chip. This awesome little Arduino clip can be clipped onto a paper circuit so you can program your circuit stickers (or regular LEDS!) I was (and STILL AM) amazed at the ease and power of this tiny little board. However, the most AMAZING thing is that you and your students can program this microcontroller from your phone, iPad, or Chromebook. YES, ladies and gentlemen, from a CHROMEBOOK! No software download is necessary.  Check out the first few projects I made with the Love to Code board here.

Introducing the Love to Code Creative Coding Kit!

Now Jie and Chibitronics have a great new immersive and interactive coding book where you and your students can clip an Arduino board right inside this beautiful binder and program your freshly crafted paper circuits.

K-Fai’s illustrations bring Jie’s instructions to life. There are ample pages for children and students to create their own drawings and circuit traces. Which makes crafting and learning a joy in this all inclusive DIY kit.

We received the kit in November and my 8 YO daughter enjoyed creating and drawing her own circuits. However, the best thing about this kit (that astounded me) is that she learned to tinker with Arduino code and found confidence in programming her paper circuits with MakeCode.

 

 

 

 

 

 

She worked through the simple circuits, parallel circuits, and beginning coding projects. She loved adding hidden drawings that only appeared with programmed light.

Eventually, I started working through the book in some of the more complicated projects, because I really wanted a turn to use this book!

Love to Code / ChibiScript Platform

One of the coolest things about this coding platform with Chibitronics, is that students, teachers, and learners of all ages can program with any type of device (phone, Chromebook, etc) that has an audio jack. PLUS, they can easily find errors in Arduino coding in the ChibiScript platform. (Which is something that is really difficult to understand as a beginner Arduino coder in the original Arduino software.)

When Jie and I taught an ISTE workshop last summer based around the new Chibi chip, I was amazed to see that every educator in the room had success programming with this powerful little board. Most of these educators had never even made a paper circuit, programmed a microcontroller, or seen the Arduino platform before! See their explorations in programming paper circuits here.

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Programming with MakeCode

My 8 YO preferred programming with MakeCode. Once I’d taken over crafting the circuits (because I really wanted to get my hands on the book… sorry kid….) I let my 8 YO program (and reprogram) the circuits. It was super easy to do, especially letting her just write her programs on an iPad. She loves this type of problem solving.

 

So….What’s in the Kit?

The Powered Binder– This amazing illustrated binder has 150 full color pages that can be removed, hacked, and crafted upon. Students can read through Fern’s story and learn alongside this funny frog as she learns how to make simple circuits, and how to program LEDs. The explanations are student friendly and the drawings by K-Fai are delightfully fun. I love how the book uses simple illustrations to cover big concepts. (I also heard that *soon* educators will be able to buy subsequent sections to fit into this same binder. There is room to grow both physically and mentally!) Plus, the binder has it’s own power source, so learners can plug right into this binder and be ready to program! This might actually be my favorite thing about the whole kit, a simple and quick power source solution.

The Chibi Chip on a Chibi Clip – The amazingly accessible Chibi board is pre-mounted onto a chibi clip. This is another simple solution that makes coding so much more accessible. The coder can just pop their clip down on a hand made circuit and test their code in seconds!  (No breadboarding, no alligator clips- just laying down a circuit with copper tape!) This board is USB powered and programmed via an audio jack. The cable for power and uploading is included of course!

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Image from Chibitronics

Copper Tape and LEDs- The kit comes with 2 rolls of copper tape, 36 white LED stickers, 64 conductive fabric patches. Which is more than enough to make a few mistakes and still have tape and LEDs leftover!

The Stencil –  My daughter’s favorite thing in the kit (besides the story and the experience) is the Chibi stencil. She loved using the stencil to hide the Chibitronics logo all over the book.  As an educator, I loved the stencil because it helps when designing your own circuit traces.

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Cost

Yes, the entire kit is expensive for an educator at $85 a kit. However, it’s well worth the price and the activities within will last you and your makers for months. While you might not be able to afford a class set, I’d suggest buying at least one to try it out yourself, or buy a few to try with a coding club. I’m planning on using mine in workshops to help independent learners that want to know more about programming paper circuits. If I had enough in my school budget to buy a class set for my coding club, I would! But for now, I’m going to buy a set of the Chibi Chip boards and supplement with the binder. (Maybe next year I can buy a set through Donors Choose or have a club fee? Things that make you go hmmm……)

Plus as a parent, I think it’s a beautiful gift for a child and well worth the money! (Probably best at 8 and up!)

Bottom Line?

The book and kit is amazing and worth every penny! It’s such a fun experience to be able to tinker and explore programming paper circuits in this binder. The Love to Code board is accessible for makers 8 and up, and the activities are easy to start and build schema quickly.

This set is one of the BEST low floor high ceiling tools in the maker ed market! 

Note: I did not get paid to write this post. I did receive the amazing binder for free and I am thankful to Jie and K-Fai for sharing their art with me. It is a beautiful resource!